Before I started Metolius Tea, I would grocery shop by scanning for certified organic symbols. I wanted vibrant, healthy foods without damaging chemicals. My experience in the tea industry changed my perspective on certification. Metolius Tea sources from small production, high integrity farmers locally and around the world. While many of our ingredients are certified organic, some of the best ingredients are not. I'm ok with that, and here is why you should be too.
Small operations like Sakari Botanicals out of Bend, Meru Herbs in Kenya, and the tea farmers of Yunnan, China cannot afford (or do not need) costly certifications. These high integrity farmers produce high integrity products that burst with vitality. What would an expensive organic certification do for a small tea garden, producing 20 kilograms of tea per season, and selling out years in advance? When I drink our Earl Grey I can taste the vibrancy of Italy, of the high mountains of China, and the island air of Madagascar. I can feel the presence of small, thriving communities behind each ingredient. Third party lab studies show that these ingredients are the cleanest and most vibrant of our entire palate of ingredients.
The way we create flavor is as important to us as using chemical free teas and herbs. Most tea on the shelves of American grocery stores is smothered in synthetic flavor labeled as "natural flavoring." Companies that blend tea with natural flavoring do not know what their flavorings are made of. That is proprietary information (legal secrets) belonging to natural flavoring companies. The flavors could include animal or insect parts, MSG, addictive elements, and taste bud deceptors that prevent you from perceiving unwanted tastes.
The FDA warns us that Natural Flavorings often do not contain the ingredients they replicate at all. Their working definition of “natural” is that the food cannot contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances. I worry that this definition, however broad, is still misleading, as natural flavors are actually synthesized in labs. Strawberry, raspberry, and vanilla natural flavoring, for example, are made in part with castoreum, a secretion beavers use to mark their territories. While it has been used in food, perfume and medicine for a long time and is considered generally safe, do we as consumers not have the right to know when we are consuming it? Further, the Environmental Work Group has interviewed food chemists who actually explain that many flavors are made to be addictive.
At Metolius Tea, strawberries are strawberries, blueberries are blueberries, (“and the snozzberries are snozzberries”) and vanilla is still vanilla no matter how many times the price has doubled. This is our commitment to high integrity tea.
Thank you, Metolius Tea fans, for sharing our passion for high integrity, truthful tea.