Chamomile, also spelled camomile, is a popular herb for use either on its own in herbal teas or in blends. When buying chamomile tea, there are a number of questions and factors to consider.
Tea company or bulk herb company?
Chamomile is sold both by tea companies and bulk herb companies. Tea companies tend to have higher prices, but, in some cases, have selected high-quality batches that are better for brewing as herbal tea. Check the company though: some of the better herb companies have extraordinary
Blend or pure chamomile?
Not all teas labeled as “chamomile” are made exclusively from the chamomile plant; many of these herbal teas are actually blends which contain mostly chamomile, but also contain other herbs or flavorings.
Some people actually prefer these blends, because the pure herb can have a rather bitter aftertaste. These sorts of blends are typically sold by tea companies, and less commonly by bulk herb companies.
Loose-leaf herb, or tea bags?
Another major distinction when buying any type of tea or herbal tea is the question of whether to buy loose-leaf or tea bags. Tea bags offer the primary advantage of convenience. However, when buying tea bags, a large portion of what you are paying goes to the industrial packing process and the packing materials themselves. When buying loose-leaf herbs or tea, you are paying primarily for the product you wish to buy, with only a small amount of packaging. Loose-leaf or bulk herbs are also more sustainable, in that they use fewer resources to obtain the same end result, and they result in less waste. Lastly, loose-leaf tea and bulk herbs often offer superior quality.
For this reason, if you are cost-conscious and concerned with quality, I would recommend buying loose-leaf or bulk chamomile from a tea company or herb company, rather than buying the standard tea bags available in supermarkets. When buying in bulk, I recommend the whole dried flowers, rather than powdered herb. For brewing, if you do not have one, purchase a strainer or tea filter. My favorites are basket infusers with a stainless steel mesh that sit inside a mug or teapot. Tea balls also work but are less optimal.
Look for whole, intact flowers:
Freshness is of prime importance when buying any sort of tea, herbs, or spice, and chamomile is no exception. The best sources of chamomile usually show whole, intact flowerheads attached to small stems. If the flowerheads are crushed up into finer pieces, this does not necessary mean that the batch you are looking at is necessarily lower quality, but keep in mind that finely broken herbs lose their flavor more quickly, so such batches are less likely to be fresh or stay fresh than batches consisting mostly of whole chamomile flowerheads.
Conutry of origin?
Chamomile is produced in a number of different countries. Much of the commercially available herb originates in Egypt, but it is also relatively common for it to be grown in Europe, such as in Germany and France. Country of origin does influence flavor, and is worth looking at if you have nuanced tastes. And In general, companies selling higher-quality herbs will identify the country of origin of each herb.