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The aleph-beit-gimels* of Kosher Tea

* These are the first three letters of the Hebrew alphabet, equivalent to our ABCs.

Some popular symbols of kosher certification. (Photo source: article author)
Some popular symbols of kosher certification. (Photo source: article author)

Over the past few years, and partially in response to customer demand, more and more tea sellers have been seeking out and qualifying for certifications for their teas, including kosher.

The laws governing kosher foods are based on the health and well-being of the world, although they derive from a different source than some other certifications. (Remember the commercials for Hebrew National hot dogs that “answer to a higher authority?”) Kosher is governed by Jewish Biblical law, or halacha. Foods (and beverages) with kosher certification are considered fit and proper and permissible to eat according to this law.

While people of all religions seek out kosher food because of its perceived quality (foods are prepared under stringent supervision), the consumption of kosher-only food and drink is a requirement of Judaism. And that also pertains to tea.

As a natural product, tea is innately kosher – fit for consumption. Generally speaking, if a loose-leaf tea does not include flavourings or colourings, whether natural or artificial, it is considered kosher by default, and does not require certification. This includes decaffeinated teas. Some of the world’s most popular scented teas – bergamot-scented Earl Grey, jasmine, and rose – are also considered innately kosher.

If a tea contains additives or is blended with any other products, it must be produced under kosher supervision and meet all the requirements of “fit and proper” to obtain kosher certification. This encompasses both ingredients and the processing method. Certain types of packaging can also render a tea as not kosher. Additionally, bottled teas – including juice and alcoholic blends, tea concentrates, and instant teas require kosher supervision. When shopping for these types of teas, look for the kosher symbol on the package: the most common ones are OU (Orthodox Union) and Star-K, although there are various other national, international, and local kosher-certifying organizations.

Nowadays, when over 75% of all packaged foods in the USA carry a kosher certification, it’s easier than ever to find teas that you like while observing kosher law. Some popular tea sellers such as English Tea Store and Harney & Sons offer a wide variety of excellent teas with kosher certification.

I want to be clear that I am not a rav or halachic scholar, so readers should consider this a discussion of general guidelines. If you have specific questions about what is or isn’t kosher, please direct them to a qualified rabbinical source.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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