After working from home for the past 4-5 months, heads down for almost 10 hours a day at my laptop, I decided it was time to better structure my day and build a routine that included more intentional breaks – whether that’s going for a walk, exercising my creative brain, or just sitting in peace for 10-15 minutes.
When it comes to the latter, one little ritual I’ve wiggled into my daily routine is tea drinking. Of course, my new found interest had me researching the healthiest teas and the best ways to prepare them. Here’s what I learned, along with my review of Sips by, a new tea subscription service that’s been helping me discover new, high-quality teas!
How to Choose the Healthiest, Safest Teas
There are tons of different tea types, brands, and blends out there. Here are some tips to help you find the ones with the most health benefits, and the least amount of chemicals.
Go for green, black, oolong, or white for the most health benefits. These are all made from the same tea plant, Camellia sinensis. The only difference is that they’re processed differently. All teas from the Camellia plant are rich in polyphenols, which are a type of antioxidant (meaning they help fight free radicals and prevent cell damage in the body). These four types of teas are considered superfoods as they have about eight to 10 times the polyphenols found in fruits and vegetables (1), and that comes with tons of benefits, like boosting your metabolism (2), reducing inflammation in the body (3), and improving oral health (4).
Another bonus? The combination of caffeine and L-theanine in black, green, oolong, and white teas has been shown to improve reaction time, visual processing, memory, and concentration (5), and even improve brain structure for more efficient information processing (6).
Herbal teas, other the other hand, are made by steeping herbs, fruits, seeds, or roots in hot water. Since they do not consist of tea plant leaves, they typically contain lower concentrations of antioxidants. However there are a few, including ginger, hibiscus, and peppermint, that have their own recognized health benefits.
Skip tea products with added flavors (even “natural” flavors) and coloring. These typically fall under the instant tea category – think Lipton powder teas and liquid ice tea projects – and contain very little amounts of actual tea, and are often packed with sugars and/or artificial sweeteners.
If you choose bagged tea, look for ethical brands that state their bags are epichlorohydrin-free, like Organic Yogi Teas and Choice Organic Teas. Most paper tea bags are treated with epichlorohydrin, a plastic that helps to keep the bags from breaking. Epichlorohydrin can potentially break down in water and be released into your drink, which is scary since it’s a potential carcinogen (7).
Buy the highest-quality, certified organic, non-GMO tea whenever possible. Lower quality teas are often contaminated with pesticides and heavy metals, which will infuse directly into your cup. Experts recommend avoiding teas that are grown in China, Sri Lanka, and India, which are known to have more contaminated soil. Or at minimum, keep their brew time under three minutes. This will lessen the leaching of heavy metals into your cup.
After becoming aware of the quality differences across brands, I started shopping for teas strictly at heath food stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts – they basically do all the research for you when it comes to finding higher quality, organic, non-GMO blends. However, their stock can be limited, which is why I was super excited to discover Sips by, a tea subscription box that focuses on high-quality, premium teas.
Sips by Tea Subscription Review
Whether you’re a tea lover or tea newbie, Sips by offers a fun, affordable, and convenient way to discover new premium brands and blends. Through their personalized tea subscription box, you’ll get to try 4 teas every month (that’s enough to make 15 fresh cups). Each box is specifically chosen for you based on your Sips by profile, which covers everything from preferred tea types, flavors, caffeine levels, brew styles, and even dietary preferences/restrictions. You’ll also be able to rate your teas to help them curate more matches for you in the future.
My very first Sips by box featured a great sampling of black, green, and herbal teas, all loose leaf expect for the Yogi tea (which are packed in tea bags made of “high-quality manila hemp fibers and wood pulp” and free from plastic.). It also included personalized info card that lists out each tea’s ingredients and caffeine level, along with helpful instructions on optimal brewing temps and steep times. Here’s the rundown of all 4 teas I received this month –
July Sips by Box
Yogi GREEN TEA PASSION FRUIT MATCHA – I’m a big fan of Yogi’s teas, though surprisingly, I’d never tried this one before. There are a few things I love about it. For one, it contains Green Tea Leaf and Matcha Green Tea powder, making a super healthy tea that naturally boosts energy levels. The added passionfruit and plum also makes for a very tasty, fruity green tea that I personally find more enjoyable than drinking just straight green tea. I received 5 total sachets which made 5+ cups of tea. / Rating: 3 out of 5
Harney & Sons PARIS – Another great morning blend! This contains both black and oolong tea, with a delicious, fruity-citrus mix of black currant and bergamot, layered with warm, sweet notes of vanilla and caramel. It’s one of my favorites out of the four – I will definitely be re-purchasing! / Rating: 4 out of 5
The TéSpa LAVENDER TÉ – Another caffeine-free tea blend that’s perfect for winding down in the evening. While not the most exciting/unique blend out of the four, I did enjoy its calming blend of lavender, hibiscus, jasmine, lemon balm, and ginger. Brewed hot, this tea helped me relax while breathing in a soothing mix of herbal and floral aromas. / Rating: 3 out of 5
Pinky Up CHERRY RHUBARB COBBLER – This rooibos tea smells amazing straight out of the bag! You can actually see the little bits of fruit found in the blend – like apple, rhubarb, pineapple, and Morello cherry. I like to drink this one hot right before bed – it makes for one delicious, caffeine-free blend that gets me feeling all warm and cozy before bed! This was my absolute favorite in this Sips by box when it comes to flavor. / Rating: 5 out of 5
August Sips by Box
I enjoyed my first box so much that I decided to continue my subscription and try out more teas. Here’s the second selection that I received…
Asheville Tea Co ASHEVILLE GREY – Another great morning tea, featuring an Earl Grey blend with very subtle hints of calming calendula flowers and bright, cirtrusy bergamot – an interesting combination for sure! It’s a great pick for those who like simpler blends that really bring out the flavor of the base tea. I personally find it most enjoyable with a bit of agave and milk. / Rating: 3 out of 5
Churchill’s Fine Teas WHITE PEACHBERRY JASMINE PEARLS – This antioxidant-rich, low-caffeine blend consists of white tea and hand-rolled jasmine pearls, plus peaches and strawberries for a burst of fruitiness. I’m a sucker for jasmine teas, and with the added punch of delicious fruits, this one quickly became a new favorite. / Rating: 4 out of 5
teapigs CUCUMBER & APPLE COLD BREW – I love cold brewed teas, but they can take a lot of time to prep. This one however, only takes ~5-10 minutes to reach fairly full flavor in cold water. And although it comes pre-bagged, according to teapigs’ website, their tea temples are made from corn starch, so they’re plastic-free and 100% biodegradable. Flavor-wise, I found this to be very unique and refreshing, though not my personal favorite (definitely one for the cucumber fans out there!). I definitely want to try out their Lychee & Rose blend at some point. / Rating: 2 out of 5
Aesthete Tea MILK OOLONG – This makes for a solid morning-time tea. It features a simple ingredients list of oolong tea with “natural smooth, milky flavors”, which I find enjoyable just on it’s own, as well as with a milk and sweetener for a little extra flavor. / Rating: 3 out of 5
My July and August Sips by boxes brought me a little extra joy these pasts months, and added even more excitement to the whole ritual of preparing and drinking tea. My personal favorites these past months include the Pinky Up Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler (my new caffeine-free, evening time favorite) and Churchill’s Fine Teas White Peachberry Jasmine Pearls (this makes a delicious and very flavorful milk tea!).
Another great find? This super convenient tea mug + infuser combo. It makes brewing loose leaf tea quick and easy, not to mention healthier. The mug itself is made of borosilicate glass, so it’s lightweight and durable. It’s also one of the safest materials for brewing hot beverages as it doesn’t release metals or toxins into your drink. Meanwhile, the tea infuser is made of 304 stainless steel, making it highly resistant to corrosion, so it won’t release metals into your drink either. Oh, and bonus – cleaning is a breeze (all the components are dishwasher-safe!).
Interested in getting your own personalized tea box?
Visit Sips by here to get $5 off your 1st month!
Are you a tea lover? What are some of your favorite tea types and brands?