Saturday, February 16, 2013

Artificial Flavouring in David's Teas: Sad Face

David's Tea, in Halifax, has been extremely smart. Their first shop set up almost next door to Lululemon, the perfect complement to the less caffeine, more hipster conscious, yogi. Everything from the hipster employees, to the colourful and trendy tea accessories and fancy, flavourful tea selection has been carefully crafted to appeal to the trendy yogi.

And it works- David's Tea is hugely popular.

(I have a problem....)

I love the idea of loose tea, and since I'm not a traditional black tea drinker, I was ecstatic to experience the deliciousness of fanciful herbal and rooiboos teas. All purchased by a Canadian company.

Except... many of David's Teas have 'flavouring' added to the ingredient list. Have you noticed? If you check their FAQ page, you'll see them describe the use of 'natural flavouring' and 'artificial flavouring'.

I will be honest, I was hugely disappointed.

I, naively, assumed that my teas were flavoured with tea leaves, nuts and berries... not some sort of 'flavour pack' assembled in a lab by 'flavourists'. 'But wait!' you may say, 'isn't the use of 'natural' flavours not that bad?'...

Actually... we well know that the word 'natural' has almost no weight in the food and cosmetic industry. It's not regulated nor is it policed. That said, there are general expectations for what would be considered a 'Natural flavour' and an 'Artificial flavour'.

According to the Scientific American (in 2002):
"...a natural flavor is the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional"

Artificial flavours are synthetical derived chemical compositions that elicit a certain taste. There has been some discussion in the literature and blogosphere on artificial colouring and flavouring causing health concerns in children. It's honestly one more unnatural component that we are ingesting into our bodies. And we can be sure that regulatory bodies have not looked into the effects of how these synthetic compounds react with each other, with other ingredients or holistically over the lifespan of human ingestion.

Unfortunately, added flavourings hide several ingredients (some petrochemical in origin) that companies are not forced to reveal. Similar to perfume companies, as a type of 'trade secret' to protect from other companies copying their scent (or in this case, taste). Artificial flavours can be made from some sketchy chemicals and we all know how fantastic the FDA is at policing additives stamping new ingredients with the 'safe' stamp of approval (read: terrible). Health Canada isn't that much better.

It is possible to find David's Tea without 'flavouring' added. For example, the Organic Peppermint Amour ingredient lists only has peppermint leaves (from Oregon State!). Don't rely on the term 'organic' however. Unthinkingly I purchased 'Organic Sweet Dreams'... which is the first time I've noticed the ingredient 'flavouring' on the tin.

Unfortunately, the entire purpose of getting new tea was because I have discovered that although Peppermint Tea is the BEST thing for IBS (better than medication!!!), it is NOT good for reflux. Apparently Peppermint tea will relax the upper stomach sphincter and allow acid to rise up while sleeping.

What I should do is look into the truly local, tea house 'World Tea House' in Halifax instead of continuing to support the 'Starbucks' equivalent to Tea.


  1. Thank you for pointing this out. I recently made my first purchase there and the thought that artificial flavoring is used never even crossed my mind...
    I emailed the company to express my displeasure, asking them to at least provide clear labeling.

    1. I know! I was disappointed when I first heard not too long ago and was reminded today when I took a look at the ingredients on the tin! The labels on the tins and pouches should have the ingredient lists though... but I don't see the necessity to add artificial flavouring to tea.

  2. I like David's Tea, even though a lot of their stuff is very gimmicky. I have quite a bit of their stuff, but don't really dig into my stash very often. I think I sort of got it out of my system. They do have plenty of regular teas though, and I'm not personally that concerned with things being organic. I am trying not to buy anymore pouches of tea from there, mostly because of the cost and the fact that I already have too many. It's nice to get a cup as a treat once in a while, though I usually just walk by.

    There are a few other choices locally. You can get The Tea Brewery products here in Halifax. There's also Sawadee Tea House, though I haven't been there myself. And if Mu Lan Tea House is still around, that is an interesting place to check out too.

    1. Thanks Melissa! Yes, I like David's Tea as well.... which is why I was disappointed. Mostly because, like other things such as cosmetics or body products like lotion, if you can do it a natural way then why add synthetics?? (rhetorical question, I know 'why' it's just frustrating). I see it as another unnecessary exposure to synthetic chemicals.

      If I can get the same teas from a (truly) local company that don't have synthetic additions, than I should probably go that route.... :)
      I have tried Tea Brewery and haven't really liked their tea, and the Sawadee Tea House intimidated the crap out of me.
      see... I think this is why David's Tea is so successful- they aren't intimidating... it's just so much easier to make a choice about tea.
      I'll probably continue to get 'Peppermint amour' from them, since it's the BEST i have ever had. :)

  3. Well that is seriously disappointing. At least not *all* of their teas have flavouring in them but now I'll have to actually look at the ingredient lists. Once I finish of my huge batches of David's Tea I'll have to check out the World Tea House.

  4. Oh double sad face! I am just discovering a love of herbal teas after quitting coffee (for the second time in my life). As I am a newbie to the tea world a friend told me about David's Tea and I loved the lists of teas I saw on line. I was going to reward myself after finishing a project for work by making a trip to the nearest location. Will have to look at ingredients carefully.

  5. Oh, I have recently fallen in love with David's Tea as there is one right near my house in Whistler! We like Bear Trap and Coco Chai Rooibos. From now on I'll be sure to check my ingredient lists though! And maybe do as another commenter suggested, write to them!

  6. The main reason why flavors are added to tea is because things like fruit pieces added to tea will not add aroma to the dry tea (and so smell bland) and loose their potency quickly once packaged. Companies like David's, and any other tea/coffee company that offers flavored products will use flavoring to add interest and variety to their products. At least some use "natural" flavors derived from actual fruit etc (as the quote above suggests) rather than flavors derived solely from chemicals.
    If you are a true purist and insist on no added flavors to your tea you really are limited to a few types of tea that add flavor through the inclusion of flowers or herbals such as mint or adding your own at the time of brewing.

  7. I checked out World Tea House's website and their herbal teas look VERY FAMILIAR to Art of Tea's selections. I don't know if their stuff is considered local if they get it from another company...kinda weird if you ask me!

  8. I am disappointed as well to learn of artificial flavourings being used. I love loose leaf and when it's done with all natural ingredients, and organic (yes, it really makes a difference in taste and quality, not to mention the process is free from pesticides, chemicals, additives, GMO's), it is an amazing experience. Local tea companies can, of course, be local. Tea has to be imported and a lot of companies will create their own blends which may look a lot alike other companies, but taste different based on their own recipes. It would be pretty hard to have teas exclusive to one blend. As well, importing blends from other tea wholesalers and offering them for sale in your local region shouldn't be a faux pas, but rather nice that someone would offer lovely tea blends to local customers. :) I started a tea company in my area because I wanted to offer a true organic product, imported by Canadian companies, and with a guarantee that the product has never come into contact with chemicals, etc. It has been a huge success and I'm pleased to offer my own unique blends as well as those blends created by other tea wholesalers that are not currently offered in my area. I think it's very important to convey that to my customer that not all my blends are exclusively made by me. Thank you for a great article. :)

  9. I'm not worried about flavouring. Nor is it worth any distaste towards the company; they don't lie about it. It's unlikely they were trying to deceive the Lululemon crowd either, as the company definitely did not start in Halifax next to a Lululemon, and it's more likely just a convenient venue on the ever busy Spring Garden Road. That said, I understand why a lot of people aren't fond of flavouring, even if it doesn't bother me, so I can see why it's a general disappointment when a tea you like doesn't fit the things you wanted for it. I hope you all find a good store for you guys.

  10. Hi! As a proud employee of DAVIDsTEA I feel like I should chime in to this very important issue! What I was told in my training is that under Canadian standards anything that is not a STRAIGHT natural ingredient cannot be considered as a "natural flavor" and must be classified as "artificial flavoring". Now this means that even combining 2 or more natural flavors to create/emulate another flavor is also considered artificial. ex: strawberries are not always in season; if the company chooses to combine other fruits or natural fruit extracts/flavors to "create" that strawberry flavor it's still considered as artificial. In order for teas (especially our mainstay ones that are in the stores year round) to maintain consistent flavor year-round sometimes you need to find a way to get a little creative in the tea lab by combining different ingredients.

    Here's what I've seen the company do to stay on top of things like this: if a particular tea becomes difficult to keep up in a sustainable, environmentally friendly and economical way they discontinue the tea. Many DT fans are sad when their favorite tea is no longer available but it's often because we'd rather discontinue the tea rather than cut corners or compromise the integrity of the product or jack up the prices to something ridiculous just so we can procure those ingredients at a much higher price. I would assume this is especially true for our short-term seasonal teas (spring, summer, fall, winter collections) which is why we only offer them for a short period.

    Of course artificial flavoring sometimes straight up means artificial flavoring, so if there's a tea that you ABSOLUTELY LOVE but are SUPER CONCERNED about the artificial flavoring you should definitely email DT ( and find out the specificity of the artificial flavoring in your favorite tea. The company absolutely has an open ear for the fans and consumers and will very likely be able to find an answer for you.

    When all is said & done, I have yet to see a corporate tea company that's as open and transparent as DT. The fact that they try to be as natural and organic as possible (check out those fruits & nuts in the teas that you can just eat after you steep!) and are fair trade conscious as well as organic-conscious makes me a happy tea drinker!

    So there you have it: first-hand info from a DT insider! And like I said, if you want to hard facts don't hesitate to talk to the company! :D

  11. You think artificial flavouring is bad? Check out their new Christmas line. My mother in law gave me a tin of "Santa's Secret" for Christmas. While I was letting it steep this morning, I decided to take a gander at the ingredients. Boy, did my eyes ever widen. Corn starch, hydrogenated vegetable oil, cellulose gum, etc. Now, according to the site, those are the ingredients found in the candy cane bits which are mixed amongst the tea leaves.

    Can't be the best for you can it? You let the tea steep, which awakens all those toxins and fills your cup with one hot glass of nasty.

    Really turned off.

    1. Here's a thought: Don't drink tea with candy pieces in it.

  12. Bought several cans of this tea all lacking in flavor

  13. This brand of tea has no flavor. Will go back to a different brand


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