There it is on the box: Our KSA certification.
It’s my mission at this tea company as a blogger to tell you things you didn’t know about two leaves and a bud, everything from facts about the various teas we offer, to strange details about the life of our Founder and CEO Richard Rosenfeld (he loves toe socks and baking pie).
So I’m back this week with another fact about our tea that may have escaped your attention when you picked that box of sachets off the store shelf. Did you know that of our 19 boxes of tea sachets, 15 are certified kosher? Take a close look at the boxes in the store sometime, and you’ll see a small symbol on most of them that says “KSA kosher.” KSA stands for Kosher Supervision of America. This nonprofit organization is based in Los Angeles, but has offices around the world.
KSA is the largest, recognized and accepted Orthodox kosher certification agency based in the western United States. It is their charge to only give the KSA label to food products that are permitted to be eaten by people who observe Jewish dietary law. There are many reasons why a food may be considered non-kosher, ranging from species of animal, improper slaughtering or processing procedures, mixing of meat and dairy ingredients, or use of ingredients derived from non-kosher sources.
A few interesting facts about the kosher food industry, according to the people at Kosher Supervision of America:
- Nearly $34 billion in food products are produced as kosher in the USA.
- $3 billion in direct sales are sold each year to over 8 million consumers who seek out a kosher label
- The total number of consumers seeking food labeled as kosher is growing at an annual rate of 15 percent, “because ‘kosher’ is identified with quality, health and fine preparation.”
It’s interesting stuff, but I had a fairly basic question for KSA – what, exactly makes tea kosher, or not kosher? Since tea itself is just leaves from the plant camellia sinenses – except herbal teas, which are made up of ingredients like peppermint leaves, chamomile flowers or various blends of plant-based items — what does “kosher” really mean in the tea industry?
I gave KSA a call and Kashrus Administrator Rabbi Lisbon patiently answered my questions. Two leaves and a bud submits our lists of ingredients on an annual basis to KSA. What tends to get in the way of kosher certification in the tea business is the issue of flavorings — ingredients used in some teas to enhance their taste. Two leaves and a bud sells four different teas that use natural flavorings that don’t qualify as kosher — Alpine Berry, Pomi-Berry, Tropical Goji Green and African Sunset. Rabbi Lisbon said these flavorings may include a “grape derivative” that is not considered kosher unless its production is supervised from beginning to end. (I found a good description of this grape derivative exception on this website, if you’re interested in reading more.)
“When a consumer sees the word “kosher” on a product, they are seeing two things,” says Rabbi Lisbon. “It’s considered a sort of good housekeeping seal, like another pair of eyes was watching over the production of this item, and people can feel that they’re buying it in good faith. But then there’s what it really means — that all of the ingredients and equipment used to process this finished product meet the dietary laws of kosher.”
Rabbi Lisbon confirmed for me that KSA goes into the facility where these products are made on a regular basis, to check that all of the product sources are the same, and no substitutions have been made from day one. In the case of two leaves and a bud, that means that rabbis stationed in the KSA offices around the world — specifically in China and Canada — visit where our tea is packaged.
“Wow,” I said to Rabbi Lisbon. “That’s really going the distance to certify products as Kosher.”
“We have to go the distance for people who have been committed to the kosher program for their whole lives,” he said. “When they see the symbol, they trust us to stand behind it. They can introduce a KSA-certified product into their home and feel safe that their kitchen was not compromised.”
Do you buy our tea because of the KSA kosher label on box?