Fruit teas are a popular and refreshing alternative to hot drinks like tea and coffee. Their popularity has grown considerably in the United Kingdom over the last decade and they are out-growing many other brew-able beverages. But are they really all that good for you?
We’ll see how they compare to black tea and herbal tea while looking at some of the ways you can make them healthier.
Are Fruit Teas Good for You?
A fruit tea is simply a tea made from dried fruits. It can also include herbs and spices, but for argument’s sake, let’s focus on the ones that just contain fruit. These teas can be a great alternative to caffeinated drinks and a good way to increase your liquid intake while reducing your caffeine intake. They also taste great cold—either brew it as normal and then leave it to cool, or make a cold brew using a temperature-controlled infuser—and are a low-sugar alternative to fruit juices and pop.
But as far as antioxidants and nutrients go, there is very little to get excited about. A single serving of fruit tea contains a minimal amount of fruit, so you’re only getting a trace amount of nutrients. This is true even if you consume half a dozen cups throughout the day. Simply put, you’ll benefit more by eating a handful of berries than you would consuming a tea made from dried berries.
The Flavourings in Fruit Tea
The vast majority of fruit teas contain “natural flavourings”. This is true of all the most popular brands that we checked, including the ones that contained a long list of fruits. You’d think that the fruits could speak for themselves and be more than enough to provide the depth of flavour required, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Manufacturers add these natural flavourings to create something a little more balanced, and in most cases, they don’t tell you what those natural flavourings are. This is not a problem with the more wholesome manufacturers, and if you do some digging, you won’t find anything to worry about. In fact, some of them are open about the flavourings they use and will typically list it somewhere on their site.
The problem is that this isn’t always the case, and “natural flavourings” aren’t always as wholesome as you would hope. Natural flavourings can have animal origins and they can be made from highly processed essential oils. We’re not saying that flavourings with these origins are used in fruit teas, but they can be, and if you’re drinking something you think is made from a couple common fruits that actually contains half a dozen flavourings, it might be cause for concern.
Making Fruit Teas Healthier
There are many reasons you might want to drink fruit teas, but if your goal is to load up on antioxidants, maybe substituting the antioxidants you’re missing out on by quitting coffee or tea, then you’ll need to get creative with added ingredients.
Some fruit teas already contain spices and herbs to make them a little more flavourful and healthy. Liquorice root is commonly added to tea blends like this, as is ginger. Both of these contain a wealth of antioxidant compounds and can be beneficial even in small doses. You could also add a little peppermint to help with digestive issues and give the tea more bite.
The sweetener you use will also make a big difference. One of the great things about fruit teas is that they are naturally sweet and are therefore palatable even without adding sugar or honey. But if you can’t quite stomach it and have a particularly sweet tooth, then opt for a little honey as opposed to sugar.
As discussed in our guide to the benefits of honey, this sticky, sweet substance can work wonders for your throat and also give you an injection of antioxidants.
Vitamins in Fruit Tea
We’ve seen quite a few claims made about fruit teas that simply aren’t true. The most common of these is that they are “extremely” high in beneficial vitamins, including vitamin C. It’s true that berries can be a great source of vitamin C and that some healthy additives, such as the spice saffron, can also push you closer to your RDA for this vitamin even in small amounts.
But there simply isn’t going to be enough in a cup of fruit tea to make any difference. There are exceptions, including teas made from hibiscus and berries, with additives such as lemon/orange peel. But even then, it’s unlikely that you’re consuming as much vitamin C as you think.
As mentioned above, if you want to increase the amount of nutrients you’re consuming in your fruit tea, then you need to get creative with the ingredients. Check out our herbal tea guides (covering spices, herbs, and more) to read more about potential added ingredients and discover which ones could potentially benefit you the most.
Are Fruit Teas Safe?
They should be safe to consume even in large amounts, but this isn’t true for all fruit teas, and it’s important to make sure you read the ingredients first and know what you’re drinking. Some fruit teas can contain liquorice root, for instance, and while this is safe in moderation, it can lead to some unpleasant side effects when consumed to excess.
The same is true for many other additives, which is why moderation is key.
Make Your Own Fruit Tea
It’s hard to go wrong with fruit teas, so it’s very easy to make your own. Use dry fruits as opposed to fresh fruits and experiment a little with the herbs and spices that you have on hand. Again, these are better if they are dried, but some fresh roots also work. We love making a turmeric tea from fresh root, for instance, and the same can be done with ginger, but it’s not as easy or palatable if you’re using fruits.
You can also use the peel of some fruits. Fruit teas made with citrus fruits typically use the rind instead of the flesh, as it contains the same flavour compounds but in a much higher concentration and with much less water content.