Herbal and fruit infusions have to undergo a series of quality control measures prior to being marketed. Not only the final product is carefully analysed, quality control already begins at the earliest stage: when the small plants are budding.
Raw materials for herbal and fruit infusions originate from all over the world. They are either grown as cultivated crops or gathered in the wild. Employing cultivation is common practice these days and holds various benefits in comparison to “wild gathering”. Right from the start, growers are able to ensure high and consistent quality by choosing a suitable soil and climate zone. During the entire growing process, plants are controlled carefully and harvested at the optimal time.
Cultivation and wild gathering
Some herbals and fruits are uncultivable and need to be harvested manually as in former times. To these wild herbs and fruits belong, e.g. rose hip and linden flowers. During gathering, special attention is given to each of the collected plants, in order to ensure the highest quality of fruits, flowers and leaves.
First, the harvested plants or parts of plants are inspected, sorted and dried carefully in the sun or in drying facilities. The dried raw material is then supplied to the European producer, where it undergoes further comprehensive quality control measures.
Plant specific processing
All producers of herbal infusions have a quality assurance system and staff available to check the raw materials at each stage of the production. At the beginning herbals and fruits undergo chemical inspections by their laboratory. During this step, they are analysed for example with regard to their content of valuable essential oils, as well as for possible residues of pesticides. Only after raw materials have successfully passed this stage of quality control, processing continues. The broad variety of different raw materials requests individual handling. Due to its strong odour raw materials, like peppermint are stored separately from sensible plant materials like lemon balm. After cleaning e.g. by sieving from stones or other foreign materials, herbals and fruits are degustated, which means they undergo several sensory tests by tea tasters. They smell, look, feel and taste in order to closely examine the raw material.
After passing successfully all stages of quality control, the herbal and fruit infusions’ raw materials are blended and packaged carefully either loose or in tea bags.