The best herbal tea is more a matter of personal preference than the other stuff that we put in our mouths. Unlike food and other drinks that can have some nutritional benefit or disadvantage, herbal tea doesn't have any proven nutritional impact. Some teas just taste better than others.
But when we drink more of the nutritionally neutral herbal tea, we're likely to drink less of the bad stuff. We are even less likely to eat less of the bad stuff.
Drinking herbal tea puts something in your mouth, something that people with diabetes especially like to do. The herbal tea is an alternative to eating or drinking something that will give us unnecessary calories between meals.
My friend Jeff who is a member of my diabetes support group for men committed to controlling their diabetes derides most herbal teas as flavored water. So what if it is! If adding a bag of herbs to a cup of hot water gets us to drink more water, that's all the better for us. Water is the only liquid that our paleolithic ancestors ever drank, except when some leaves happened to fall into it, which lead to the invention of the herbal tea blends we have today.
If, like Jeff, you want especially strong tea, you can follow his example and use two or even more tea bags per cup. Or you can let it seep a little longer.
Another advantage of herbal tea is that it is an inexpensive drink. Of course it isn't as inexpensive as water. But when you use only one tea bag, it's only 10 to 15 cents per cup.
When I followed the old research that suggested using any sweetener would bring back cravings for sweetness, I used to drink herbal tea without any sweetener, caloric or non-caloric. But all the herbal teas that I know taste better when sweetened. Now that I know better, my herbal tea tastes a lot better, so I drink a lot more of it.
I sweeten my herbal tea with a non-caloric sweetener, of course. I use Truvia and even carry packets of it in my SUV, so I can use them in restaurants instead of the older sugar substitutes that have some calories in their bulking agents.
When we drink herbal tea without a caloric sweetener, we generally get neither calories nor caffeine. It is the caffeine that is the biggest difference between the great majority of herbal tea and true tea.
The terminology we generally use is confusing, because herbal tea is technically an infusion or tisane of fruit or herbs that contains no Camellia sinensis. That plant is the source of the world's great varieties of true tea, whether black, green, or white. All of them, even those that are decaffeinated, have at least some caffeine.
Modern herbal tea began in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, just a couple of miles from where I live. In 1969 two young men, Mo Siegel and John Hay, discovered a harvest of wild herbs growing around Boulder, Colorado. They began packaging the herbs, and Celestial Seasonings herb teas began.
When I toured the Celestial Seasonings factory at 4600 Sleepytime Drive in Boulder earlier this year, I learned that it produces more than 1 billion tea bags per year. I hadn't previously appreciated that my home town is actually a factory town.
Today Celestial Seasonings makes more than 75 different herbal teas. The leader of the tour told us tourists that Sleepytime remains their most popular tea. Peppermint is second.
Those teas would therefore be a good place to start. But they taste far too much like weakly flavored water to me.
I am still working through their huge selection of herbal teas. But I have sampled more than half of them.
Another member of my diabetes support group, Mark, introduced me to my current favorite herbal tea, Chocolate Raspberry Bliss. I haven't found this little-known herbal tea in food stores, except in the Celestial Seasonings shop in Boulder, which also offers it online. Another online source is Amazon.com.
Celestial Seasonings calls Chocolate Raspberry Bliss a "special occasion tea." Personally, I have no objection if all of my occasions are special.
But aside from Mark and me, the only evaluation I've read of Chocolate Raspberry Bliss was that while it has a wonderful aroma and the raspberry flavor came through all right, the chocolate flavor was underwhelming. Which just proves once again how individual that tastes preferences can be!
The other herbal teas that I really like are what Celestial Seasonings calls "zingers." It is "The tart and tangy taste and ruby-red color of hibiscus is what makes a Zinger® a Zinger," the company's website says.
One of the Celestial Seasonings zingers comes in the company's premium product line of six flavors of Saphara tea. This one is Saphara Blackcurrent Hibiscus, and it has all organic ingredients except possibly the "natural flavors."
This and the other five Saphara teas come in pyramid tea bags, which allows more room for tea leaves to expand while steeping. Environmentalists have criticized some types of pyramid tea bags as being environmentally unfriendly, since their synthetic material does not break down in landfills as loose tea leaves and paper tea bags do. However, Celestial Seasonings makes the whole Saphara package from biodegradable materials.
I don't particularly like all of the Celestial Seasonings zingers. But some of my favorites in their regular product line include Açaí Mango Zinger, Red Zinger, and Wild Berry Zinger.
Celestial Seasonings is where I began my love of herbal tea -- close to home. But nowadays, this company isn't the only brand of excellent herbal tea that you can find.
Your markets offer a huge variety of choices. The selection is big enough to satisfy any of your personal preferences.