CBD Tea Development: Key Points to Consider Before You Go There

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Cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis plants, has become the hottest trend in the wellness industry and it continues to explode into the mainstream. CBD derived from industrial hemp won’t make you high, and is legal in all 50 United States.

Should your tea business jump on the bandwagon and formulate CBD teas to private label for other companies or sell direct to consumers? This is, of course, absolutely up to each company to choose on their own, but – as with all strategic decisions – there are critical points to consider and plan for in advance of launching a new product line or brand.

The CBD Opportunity Is There
First off, consider if this a sector where you want to spend your time. Although state regulations vary, the U.S. FDA’s position is that it is currently illegal to market CBD in food products or as a dietary supplement. None of the CBD products being sold in grocery stores, convenience stores or natural food stores have been given its stamp of approval. Not even the CBD sold at your local CVS or Walgreens is approved. That said, revenues from CBD products will soon exceed US$1 billion a year, according to multiple sources, including Forbes and Inc. Magazine. Customers large and small are pouring into the this space with unprecedented numbers of private label requests. Some are well-funded and well-managed, others are verging on hobbies. The current swell in the market, however, is an indication that there are likely to be an oversubscription of products in this space. All new customers take a lot of time, energy and resources. You want to be sure to choose wisely when taking on a project in the CBD market.

A Natural Marriage of Plant-based Elixirs
What’s the best way to plan a CBD tea concept? As with all tea blend developments, there’s no single perfect answer. The pairing of tea with CBD is a natural marriage of adaptogenic relaxing plant-based elixirs. However, formulating the right blend of CBD with tea, herbs, roots, flowers and other botanicals should be done with both the desired functionality and a target flavor profile in mind.

Today’s take on CBD for wellness is very different than it was just a few years ago when CBD was virtually unheard of. As a functional tea, CBD could be added for almost any time of day, and for desired benefits from focus and anti-anxiety to stress relief and relaxation. Whether they want an energizing tea or a relaxing tea to chill out, customers will also want to choose from fruity, citrus or chai tea flavors, to name a few options.

Sky & Wyatt recently partnered with The Tea Spot to help launch its line of Colorado-grown CBD hemp teas, which are blended with organic, all-natural herbs. The Tea Spot handled sourcing, blending and manufacturing of the Sky & Wyatt teas. Photo: Courtesy of The Tea Spot.

Production Considerations
What type of CBD would be best to put into tea, how much of it is needed, and how is that actually done in the production of the tea? CBD teas currently on the market generally use decarboxylated CBD hemp flower, CBD distillate or CBD isolate. These all show varying yields in the steeped tea, and different levels of bioavailability. The CBD molecule itself is hydrophobic – meaning it will not dissolve into water – even in an isolated crystalline form. There are new developments every week on the path to a water-soluble CBD solution. The goal of isolates and nanotechnology is to make the CBD more water-soluble, bioavailable and effective. The advertised dosages of CBD teas also vary widely, from 5 to 10 mg, which is considered a low or “micro” dose of CBD, all the way up to 40 to 50 mg per serving. The CBD component will drive the final cost or price point of your tea, because it’s far pricier per gram than anything else you could put in your tea.

Given the high cost of the CBD ingredient, it needs to be applied with great care and expertise, in order to yield the maximum amount of CBD in the cup. The desired function and dosage will be determining factors as to which type of CBD should be presented in your tea. That, in turn, will drive the final form factor (bulk tea, tea bags or RTD) and optimal application process.

Maria Uspenski is the founder and CEO of The Tea Spot, whose mission is to empower healthier living through the everyday enjoyment of whole leaf tea. The Colorado-based company's model of social entrepreneurship incorporates its mission to foster health and wellness through loose leaf tea with its 10% for Wellness program. Ten percent of all profits are donated in-kind to cancer and community wellness programs. Uspenski is also the author of Cancer Hates Tea, published by Page Street Books, and she was recognized as the “Top Tea Health Advocate” at the 2017 World Tea Conference + Expo. She is often featured as a social entrepreneur and certified tea and fitness nutrition expert, in addition to be a sought-after speaker on tea and wellness. To learn more about The Tea Spot, visit TheTeaSpot.com. Wholesale, OEM/private label, corporate gifting and co-branding options are available to organizations and brands, including grocers, specialty and health and wellness retailers, hotels and spas, among others.