We are often asked why we use “artificial flavoring” in our flavored teas,
instead of natural flavoring as some European sources do. The answer to this question is not simple, since
it may have more to do with differences in labeling requirements than with flavoring. To begin, we do not
flavor any teas in-house. Virtually all of our flavored teas are sourced from European suppliers who have
the knowledge and equipment to control the process and produce relatively consistent results. These same
sources supply flavored teas to the worldwide market. They use nature-identical flavorings.
The FDA regulations are specified in the Code of Federal Regulations 21CFR101.22 as follows: “any
substance, the function of which is to impart flavor, which is not derived from spice, fruit or fruit juice,
vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat,
fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof” is deemed to be artificial.
Nature-identical flavors have the same molecular structure as flavors found in nature, and in the EU
these can be labeled as “natural”. However, they are not derived from spices, fruits, etc. Thus, according
to 21CFR101.22, nature-identical flavorings are considered “artificial”.
Inconsistency of labeling standards between the European Union and the United States can certainly be
misleading. We would prefer to be able to differentiate between nature-identical and artificial flavoring,
but unless there is a change to the current CFR, we are unable to do so. This makes it difficult for the
consumer to make accurate comparisons.
We have one source that has agreed to produce flavored teas that would conform to the FDA’s definition of
naturally flavored. However, we have been warned that the price of the tea would be two to three times that
of tea produced with nature-identical flavorings. Moreover, the flavorings may be less stable.
"Upton Tea Imports was founded in 1989 with the objective of providing the North American tea drinker with
the finest teas available. We purchase teas from reputable brokers and estates worldwide, dealing only with
sources who are capable of providing top quality teas. We sell directly to the consumer, thus ensuring the
freshest product and fairest pricing."