Wendyl wants to know: Herbal tea offers sweet dreams
It's quite hard to find Central Otago apricots out of season any more. I wasn't at all happy to pick up a can of Wattie's tinned apricots and find the fruit was from South Africa. So I thought it was a great idea that Healtheries has incorporated them into this fruit tea, a fact that they celebrate on the packaging: "Central Otago nurtures the finest apricots in the world, an opportunity too good for Healtheries to ignore. We've combined them with a suggestion of passionfruit to create a tea with a tropical fruitiness, spiriting you away from thoughts of a frosty Alexandra winter." A reader also worries that these might contain essential oils: "Every other night I have a Central Otago Apricot and Passionfruit tea to avoid caffeine before bed. My wife and I are avid readers of your weekend food article and would be interested in your dissection of this product. A wise aunty warned me off fruit teas due to the essential oils contained in them. I can't see them listed?"
Ingredients (in order of greatest quantity):
Apple As the first ingredient in this tea we know that most of this teabag is made up of dried apple which gives a sweet flavour to the tea. Many fruit teas will use apple as a base.
Hibiscus This is hibiscus flower which, like apple, is in most fruit teas. It provides a tart, cranberry-like taste which contrasts well with the sweetness of the apple. It also has a lovely colour and for producers is a cheap ingredient to make up the volume of the teabag. It could also be good for you. I found a 2008 study which found three cups of hibiscus tea can lower blood pressure.
Sweet blackberry leaves These are most likely to be in here for flavour but have been used as far back as Roman times, when leaves were chewed as a tonic. Blackberry leaves are high in vitamin C and tannins and can be a beneficial remedy for diarrhoea, sore throats and they help regulate menstrual flow.
Nature identical apricot and passionfruit flavour (9 per cent) This is a very interesting addition for this tea. Nature identical means that there are no artificial flavours in this product, so that's good. But it also means that the apricot and passionfruit flavour you are smelling and tasting is largely made up of a substance which has the identical chemical structure to the natural product. To do this, substances are isolated through chemical processes to mimic the smell and taste of the apricot or passionfruit. No one will ever know what goes into these flavourings as they are trade secrets. But they are cheaper than the real thing and this means this tea is at a price that most of us can afford.
Rosehip This will be in here mainly for flavour. Rosehip tea has a tart taste and is nutrient rich.
Orange This will most likely be dried orange peel and will be in here for flavour.
Apricot fruit (5.5 per cent) Good to see some apricot in here to justify the "Central Otago Apricot" name of this tea although it isn't a lot. At 5.5 per cent of a 2g teabag there is about 0.1g of dried apricots.
Kamahi Honey powder (3 per cent) This is honey made mostly on the West Coast, where bees feed off the kamahi tree flowers. The honey will have been dried so that it could be added to the teabag.
Citric acid Usually citric acid is added to foods as a preservative but this could also be in here as a flavouring.
Passionfruit juice (0.5 per cent) And just a dab of passionfruit juice. At 0.5 per cent you're getting about 10mg in here.
Where would we be without fruit teas? They make a tasty alternative to caffeine-laden coffee and black tea and smell amazing. And in some instances they can be very good for you. In answer to my reader's query, these are good for a drink before bed because there is no caffeine in them and as far as I can tell there are no essential oils. Essential oils can be a problem for some people who have allergies but I prefer that they are used for flavouring, as in the case of peppermint oil in biscuits and chocolate, rather than an artificial flavour. But don't think you are supporting Central Otago apricot growers too significantly. There is only about 2g of dried apricot in each 20 teabag box.