Non-GMO Project Verified Teas

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October is Non-GMO month, a month meant to raise awareness and educate about genetically modified crops and their effect on the environment and our health.
Did you know that Choice Organic Teas was the first tea company in the U. S. to receive Non-GMO Project Verification? We’re proud to have the Non-GMO Project Verified logo on our products and we hope to answer some common questions about GMOs and their place in the tea industry for you.

What is a GMO?
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms whose genetic material has been altered in a laboratory through genetic engineering. Plant, animal, bacterial, and viral genes are spliced together in ways that would not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods. There are currently a handful of crops in production that have been genetically modified: alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, papaya, soy, sugar beets, and yellow summer squash. Nearly all of these crops have been engineered to tolerate direct applications of herbicide and/or to produce their own insecticide. These crops are referred to as “at-risk” or “high-risk” ingredients. Although tea is not from genetically modified plants, many additional ingredients and materials that go into tea can be derived from genetically modified organisms. A list of ingredients commonly derived from GMO sources can be found here: http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/what-is-gmo/

What does it mean for a tea company to be Non-GMO Project Verified?
The Non-GMO Project Verification process is comprehensive. It requires on-going testing of all raw at-risk ingredients, their traceability, and their segregation to ensure ingredient integrity. Further, audits and onsite inspections for at-risk ingredient inputs are conducted annually.

While our tea does not contain any at-risk ingredients, supporting the Non-GMO Project goes hand in hand with our commitment to providing organic, high quality products. Should Camellia sinensis or any other herb we use become genetically modified, we will proudly be sourcing only Non-GMO crops. To learn more about obtaining and maintaining Non-GMO Project Verification visit here: http://www.nongmoproject.org/product-verification/about-gmo-testing/guidelines/

Why would a tea company want to be Non-GMO Project Verified?
With corn being one of the most ubiquitous GMOs on the market, it’s no wonder we’re finding it in animal feed, gasoline, biodegradable plastics, and teabags. The teabags we use for our Original, Gourmet, and Wellness lines are made of natural abaca fiber. Abaca, also known as Manila hemp, is a species of banana that is native to the Philippines. This hardy plant has historically been used in making ropes, twines, and many specialized paper products including teabags. We put a lot of time and effort into sourcing high quality ingredients and our packaging materials are equally as important.

If you are already USDA Organic, why do you need to be Non-GMO Project Verified?
While all of the tea we source meets USDA Organic standards, it is also important to be Non-GMO Project Verified. The organic standard does not allow farmers to plant genetically modified crops. However, it does not require ongoing testing to confirm that cross-contamination has not occurred. Having both USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified is the gold standard when looking for products that are free from pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified plants.

Read our press release about being the first tea company to earn the Non-GMO Project Verified label here.

Fair Trade Month Recipe: Orange Spice Tea Banana Bread Muffins

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October is Fair Trade Month and we’re celebrating #FairMoments with Fair Trade USA. As consumers, we create Fair Moments by incorporating Fair Trade Certified ingredients and products into our every day lives. Fair Trade Certified products, like tea, protect and improve the lives of farmers and workers by creating funds for programs that provide education, healthcare, and safety standards.
Find your own Fair Moments with this recipe that is chock full of Fair Trade ingredients. These banana bread muffins are sweet and satisfying with a touch of orange spice, perfect for on-the-go breakfast or snacking!

Orange Spice Banana Bread Muffins

Ingredients:
– 1/2 cup water
– 6 heaping tsp Orange Spice Black Loose Leaf tea
– 1/2 cup butter
– 1/4 cup Fair Trade dark brown sugar
– 3/4 cup Fair Trade white sugar
– 1 cup plain greek yogurt
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 3 very ripe Fair Trade bananas, mashed
– 2 eggs
– 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour, sifted
– optional: chopped walnuts

Instructions:
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Bring water to a boil in a saucepan, remove from heat, and add loose tea leaves.
3. Steep tea for at least  5 minutes, and strain the tea leaves out of the water.
4. In the saucepan, combine steeped tea, the brown and white sugars, and butter.
5. Place saucepan back on stove over medium heat, stir until butter and sugars have combined. Set aside to cool.
6. Mix yogurt and baking soda in large mixing bowl, let stand for 5 minutes.
7. In the large mixing bowl, combine cooled tea and sugar mixture with yogurt. Add the eggs and gently mix.
8. Gently mix in the mashed bananas.
9. Place liners in muffin pan and fill each 1/2 way with batter.
10. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
Makes approximately 21 muffins.

10 Tips for Eating Organic Foods

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Food is such an important part of our lives. It provides us with essential nutrients and energy to get us through the day and the act of eating can bring us a myriad of pleasures from exploring new flavors, to unwinding in the kitchen, or sharing meals with friends and family. Because food has such a significant presence in our life, it is so vital to know exactly what we’re consuming. Organic certification ensures that a product has met the standards of the USDA for organic production, meaning no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, GMOs, or irradiation. When you buy organic products and food, you are voicing your support of farming practices that contribute to a healthier environment and you! The more organic products we purchase, the closer we get to eliminating harmful farming practices that leach the soil and contaminate our water sources, creating a more sustainable and healthier Earth.

Here are some simple ways to begin eating more organic foods:

  1. Buy organic tea! Unlike apples or greens, tea cannot be washed before you drink it. Drinking organic tea means that you’re not sipping on pesticides and chemicals.
  2. Try many organic teas (we’ve got over 80!) to find your favorite. Once you find what you like, it will be difficult to go back to conventional teas.
  3. Look up the “dirty dozen” and make an effort to only buy these items when they’re certified organic.
  4. Buy local organic produce and find creative ways to preserve them such as freezing, pickling, or dehydrating when they’re out of season. You’ll be grateful to have local, sustainable produce year-round.
  5. Shop at your local farmers market, co-op, or sign up for a CSA. Supporting local organic farms gets you access to the freshest and best fruits and vegetables of the season and contributes to your local economy. Plus, they often provide you with some great recipe suggestions each week!
  6. Prioritize switching to organic milk and dairy products. Organic dairy does not contain artificial growth hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides.
  7. Grow your own indoor organic herb garden.
  8. Try cooking with organic tea as a way to accent new organic meal and dessert recipes. (Check out our blog for some suggestions.)
  9. Skip eating out and save money by making healthy organic meals.
  10. Swap out bottled sodas for organic iced tea (try Classic Black or Blackberry Hibiscus). It’s calorie free!

10 Ways Organic Farming is Better for the Environment

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Since 1989, our core company values have revolved around creating products that are sustainable and healthy for the environment. This means partnering with organic tea estates across the globe with the same goals in mind. We’re proud to work with tea gardens that cultivate in ways that do not harm the environment or its surrounding ecosystem, utilizing the synergistic way that biodiversity aids in the growth of organic tea.

Here are some of the best ways organic agriculture impacts the environment:

  1. Organic cultivation of tea is better for local wildlife. The Soil Association, an international organization for organic cultivation, notes that a typical organic field has five times as many wild plants, 57 percent more animal species, and 44 percent more birds than a conventionally cultivated farm. Conventional synthetic herbicides and pesticides often kill non-target animals, plants, and insects.

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    A peacock roams freely through a tea estate in India.

  2. Organic farming is sustainable and nurtures the natural biodiversity and structure within its soils and surrounding environment, while also reducing the use of non-renewable resources.
  3. Instead of depleting soils nutrients with synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, organic farming strengthens soil by composting, cover cropping, and crop rotation.
  4. Organic farming helps keep water supplies clean of toxic run off and chemicals.
  5. Organic agriculture combats the greenhouse effect and global warming with organic soil’s ability to hold carbon, keeping it out of the air.
  6. Organic agriculture relies on preventative measures to combat pests and invasive weeds, not chemical pesticides and herbicides.
  7. Organic standards prohibit clearing of primary ecosystems for further cultivation.
  8. Organic farming typically produces less waste because it relies less on external resources and more on renewable resources.
  9. Organic practices support and protect bees and other pollinators important to crop growth because it decreases exposure to toxic pesticides, encouraging natural habitats and biodiversity.
  10. Buying organic will increase demand and “lead to a reversal of conventional farming practices” which will have long term effects on the land and our health.
Sources:
http://infohub.ifoam.bio/sites/default/files/page/files/misconceptions_compiled.pdf
http://rodaleinstitute.org/assets/RegenOrgAgricultureAndClimateChange_20140418.pdf
http://www.fao.org/organicag/oa-faq/oa-faq6/en/
https://www.ota.com/organic-101/environmental-benefits
http://theorganicsinstitute.com/organic/14-key-reasons-why-you-should-go-organic/

Self Care Pledge Week 4: Mental Health & Happiness

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After learning useful ways to handle stress, creating good habits for restful sleep and energy, and exploring the importance of healthy eating, we move on to our final self care topic: Mental Health & Happiness.

Here are some of our favorite self care actions that can make a big difference in staying positive, focusing on your goals, and overcoming life’s challenges, large and small.

Mental Health & Happiness:

  • Write down one thing you’re grateful for in your life, and place the paper somewhere you’ll see every day. We often forget to appreciate the things we have during times of stress and chaos and having this list handy can be a quick way to remind yourself of the important things in your life.
  • Try yoga poses for relaxation and meditation. Have you ever tried pairing yoga poses with tea?
  • Have tea time with a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while (or give them a call if they’re far away).
  • Pat yourself on the back (literally, if you want!), and compliment yourself on a recent accomplishment. No need to be humble!
  • Break up the monotony by planning a weekend getaway, take a walk somewhere unfamiliar, try a new restaurant or recipe, or volunteer. A change of pace can help relieve feelings of stagnation.

May might be coming to an end, but practicing self care should be a year ’round routine. Focusing regularly on your personal well-being can keep you positive, successful, and fulfilled, resulting in a healthier, happier you.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Self Care Pledge Week 3: Healthy Eating & Nutrition

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Week 3 is here! During May we’re focusing on self care actions to keep us healthy, happy, rested, and stress free. We’ve covered Stress Management and Restful Sleep, now let’s explore healthy eating and nutrition. What we consume can have a huge effect on how we feel and with hectic schedules it can be difficult to make mindful choices.

This week, let’s make a self care pledge to try these small (delicious!) daily choices and focus on well-being through what we eat.

Healthy Eating & Nutrition:
– Replace a cup of coffee with nourishing Premium Japanese Green tea.

– Play in the kitchen by making a newly discovered recipe. (We recommend the DIY Burrito Bowl from Oh She Glows.)

– Eat an antioxidant-rich fruit like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, or prunes.

– Make a superfruit smoothie with a boost – green tea!
Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 tea bags of green tea (Premium Japanese Green, Classic Green, Dragon Well)
  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 cups of frozen blueberries
  • 1 ½ cups of vanilla yogurt
  • A handful of dry roasted almonds
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds

    Instructions:
    – Brew the tea bags in ¾ cup of water that has been cooled to 180 degrees after boiling for 3 minutes – allow tea to cool after brewing.
    – In a blender, add tea, yogurt, blueberries, almonds, and flax seed, blend until desired consistency. (Makes two servings)

Recipe adapted from: http://www.food.com/recipe/blueberry-and-green-tea-smoothie-283273

– Conquer the mid-day slump with an indulgent tea like Vanilla Rooibos or Licorice Mint, instead of a sugary drink or snack.

– Fill half your plate with hearty veggies today, like broccoli or asparagus.

Have you been following along and making these daily choices of self care actions with us this month? We’d love to hear about it, be sure to tag #DailyChoices to share your story with us.

Next we’ll cover Mental Health and Happiness – the last and final list of self care actions for May! Keep an eye out next week for our helpful tips and tricks to maintain a healthy outlook on life and stay positive!

Self Care Pledge Week 2: Restful Sleep & Energy

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Throughout May we’re focusing on self care.

What is self care? Intentional daily choices that support your physical, mental, and emotional health. Taking time for oneself is often takes the backseat in our busy lives, but we want to remind you to make self care a priority.

Week one was all about stress management and we hope you learned how to better handle those stressful moments in life.

Week two is all about rest and energy! Sleep is a very important part of a healthy lifestyle, but with hectic schedules and phone and computer screens to keep our attention, it can be hard to shut down when it comes time for sleep.

Restful Sleep & Energy:

– Turn off all electronics at least one hour before bedtime.

– Make your bed. (Fluff those pillows!)

– End the day with a sleep-promoting cup of Chamomile or Rest Assured* tea.

– Stop drinking caffeine by noon. Sip on clarifying Mental Focus* tea instead.

– Try the 4-7-8 calm breathing technique to fall asleep fast.

Try one, some, or all of these tips this week to feel more rested and energized. Better yet, follow along all month and make Daily Choices with us for a healthier, happier you. Share your self care experiences on social media with the tag #DailyChoices and join the conversation!


*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.