Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Question: Why can't we use tea in our products?
Botanical ingredients are harder to preserve than non-botanical ingredients, and you definitely want to use a good broad spectrum preservative for any products in which you're using powdered or liquid extracts. (Even though most hydrosols and other liquid botanical ingredients contain preservatives, there's only enough for that ingredient, not your entire batch.)
Think of it this way. Would you drink a cup of tea you'd steeped seven days ago? No. Because it would be contaminated with all kinds of nasty things that would make the tea taste horrible and your stomach feel queasy. It's the same way with the infusions. You simply can't remove all the bits and pieces from the tea or infusion, and those bits and pieces attract contamination. Even if you can remove every last molecule of the tea leaf, you'll still get bacteria and fungi that can't wait to swim in that lukewarm broth. This works the same way with an infusion of lavender or calendula or other botanicals we find in our suppliers' shops.
It is possible to make an infusion with those lovely herbs and flowers, but you need to be an experienced formulator who uses preservatives at the maximum level and has access to testing facilities or supplies. You need to know how to infuse, store, and preserve the products well to ensure you won't see a layer of brownish goo floating in your tea a few days later. (You do not want to hear the story of the bottle of unpreserved aloe vera I once bought from Wal-Mart! Let's just say it was a good example of why we preserve our products! Ick!)
If you're a novice, please just buy the extracts or hydrosols and enjoy them. Then find someone who has a lot of experience in the area of making infusions and ask them for help (that person isn't me, by the way) so you can learn how to do it right. I know it sounds lovely to steep some green tea and use that as the liquid in that body butter or facial cleanser, but if you don't do it right, you're bathing in bacteria!