To tea purists, fruit tea is not tea. And technically, they are correct.
Actual tea is composed of Camellia sinensis whereas beverages made from other plants are tisanes or infusions. Hence, there are fruity teas (C. sinensis blended with fruit) and there are fruit “teas” (blends of fruit, herbals, and/or spices). In the U.S., with “tea” referring to nearly any hot beverage that isn’t coffee or hot chocolate, we may as well just shrug off the ambiguity and move on.
So, fruit teas. If you’re seeking a flavor-packed caffeine-free drink that has nearly no calories, fruit teas are incredible. They are excellent hot or iced, the latter especially refreshing when made with sparkling water (or sparkling wine). Or brew the tea and then freeze the liquor in ice cube trays or popsicle molds for a cooling treat.
For maximum flavor, I personally prefer loose fruit tea, which I brew in a basket filter or, even better, loose in a teapot that has a web or grate to hold back the pieces. Because you cannot over-brew fruit pieces, you can let the tea sit in the teapot, unlike C. sinensis leaves that will make the liquor bitter or too strong.
I love serving fruit teas in teacups with white interiors or in colorless glass cups so that the gorgeous colors can be admired. From saturated yellow to stunning pink to deep ruby, fruit teas visually add to your experience. I definitely have my favorites, but today I’m looking at TeaHaus‘ Strawberry Citrus, a mélange of fruit, flowers, beets, and moringa leaves.
Strawberry Citrus Ingredients
We all know the benefits of fruit, in this case apple, orange, and strawberry. The flowers add a pop of color and creaminess (sunflower blossoms) or lend some tartness to offset the sweet fruit (hibiscus blossoms, rose hips).
Strawberry Citrus also contains beets, a vegetable. I find it interesting how people refer to this particular food.
Growing up in metro Detroit, the name was simply “beets,” but when I first met my husband’s relatives in Michigan sugar beet country, I realized it was always “red beets.” At first I thought this was because there are, of course, yellow and orange beets. However, I quickly realized that the point was to distinguish edible beets from the far more ubiquitous sugar beets, processed to make sugar that’s chemically identical to cane sugar but not very palatable otherwise. Many other countries call this vegetable “beetroot,” which makes sense since they are roots.
Why add beets to fruit tea? Besides providing a beautiful red color, they are also sweet.
This tea also contains leaves from the moringa plant, native to Africa and Asia. This versatile tree (leaves, seeds, root bark, flowers, pods) has been used for food and spice, treatment for malnutrition, cosmetics, biodiesel, oil, medicine, forage (for animals), water treatment, and fertilizer.
Moringa leaves, pods, and seeds are nutritionally dense!
Moringa is said to provide 7 times more vitamin C than oranges, 10 times more vitamin A than carrots, 17 times more calcium than milk, 9 times more protein than yoghurt, 15 times more potassium than bananas and 25 times more iron than spinach. (Gopalakrishnan et al. 2016)
Dried moringa leaves have a lot of polyphenols—flavonoids and phenolic acids, which are antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and more. Numerous animal studies suggest that moringa leaves have huge potential for health benefits, but few studies have been done in humans (Vergara-Jimenez 2017).
Do You Get Health Benefits from This Tea?
This tea’s ingredients—fruit, beets, moringa leaves—seem loaded with potential health benefits. Surely this tea is practically a health tonic!
Well, it’s definitely healthier than drinking sugar-laden juice or soda. It probably provides vitamin C, and because it contains only natural fruit, flowers, and a veggie, it’s certainly within the healthy foods category. But we can’t really state more than that.
Yes, the raw components of this tea contain plenty of polyphenols (antioxidants), all the good stuff. There’s a huge caveat, however. Actually, two.
First, whatever a food/beverage contains before consumption has little correlation to how much our body gets after digestion.
The metabolism of food components in the gastrointestinal tract determines their bioactivity and effects on health. Antioxidant potential of foods prior to digestion can be used for comparisons, however this may not reflect the potential health effects. (Guldiken et al. 2016)
Secondly, processing and cooking complicate things even more.
Guldiken’s team studied how various methods of processing beets for consumption (boil, roast, pickle, etc.) impacts their (1) antioxidant properties and (2) the bioaccessibility of the bioactives.
Likewise, research into moringa also factors in the method of processing (Gopalakrishnan et al. 2016).
Just because a strawberry or a leaf has x antioxidant, your body may not get that oxidant when you ingest that berry or leaf because your digestive system breaks down and changes the properties of everything you eat. Some things will be more accessible for your body’s use and others will be less accessible.
In a fruit tea, all the components have been processed in some manner, whether dried, dehydrated, blended with sugar or rice flour, and so on. How does the processing change the ingredient?
Do the ingredients interact with or counteract other ingredients? Is there enough of a particular ingredient to have a measurable effect on a person’s health? How much of each ingredient was extracted during the brewing process?
This type of research is staggeringly complicated. For controlled studies, concentrations of the ingredient under study are typically used because there are too many variables if you’re trying to compare cups of brewed tea.
Strawberry Citrus fruit tea, along with many other fruit teas, is delicious—and is particularly refreshing when iced. After brewing, the fruit pieces and small oval moringa leaves reconstitute, while the beautiful cherry red liquor and sweet and tangy aroma deliver a flavorful cup. Tart rose hips, hibiscus, and citrus nicely balance sweet strawberry and apple.
Being naturally caffeine free and made of real fruit, tisanes such as Strawberry Citrus are ideal for anyone sensitive to caffeine and they certainly can be part of a healthy diet. Beyond that, it’s difficult to parse out. However, because we know they aren’t unhealthy, we can simply enjoy them as a guilt-free treat!
–Gopalakrishnan, L. et al., “Moringa oleifera: A review on nutritive importance and its medicinal application,” Food Science and Human Wellness 5:49–56. 2016.
–Guldiken, G., et al., “Home-processed red beetroot (Beta vulgaris L.) products,” International Journal of Molecular Sciences 17(6). 2016.
–Vergara-Jimenez, M., et al., “Bioactive components in Moringa Oleifera leaves protect against chronic disease,” Antioxidants 6(91). 2017.