Catherine Felegi is the founder and author of the blog Tea Love, a blog dedicated to all things tea-related. You can find this post and others on her page, http://cafelegi.wordpress.com/.
With Passover coming up this Friday, those who celebrate can be found running around, preparing for Seder, a time with family, food and maybe even a tea pot boiling in the kitchen.
However, is tea allowed? For those that observe Passover, this is an important question. The house needs to be cleansed of anything that is chametz, or leavened. Some sects of Judaism are stricter and will restrict certain items that are not chametz. Does this mean that tea is out the window? (For all my Jewish friends, please don't throw your tea out the window, if this is the case. Mail it to me!) Is tea even kosher?
Honestly, it depends on the tea.
Most varieties of scented teas, such as Earl Grey, jasmine or rose teas, are considered kosher. Some classes of Earl Grey are not labeled as kosher but, according to star-k.org, you are still safe.
Some flavored teas can cause some problems, though. It is not that oils and equipment used in the process are kosher. In fact, those are fine. Sometimes, though, companies may use non-kosher flavors and use non-certified teas on the same equipment. Imagine that you have a severe peanut allergy and a friend, with all good intentions, cooks up a great Thai peanut recipe and, without cleaning the cooking utensils, then cook your meal. Not good! However, if the company cleans the equipment, then it is fine.
There are certain dairy teas that can also create an issue. Dairy and meat are not allowed to mix so if you do drink a dairy tea and then eat a meat, then you are not abiding by kosher rules.
Herbal and medicinal teas are OK as long as they are not flavored. Dried herbs do not pose a problem until flavors are added. Celestial Seasonings provides a line of some great herbal teas that are also kosher. Star-K has certified them as such since the mid-1980s.
The tea bags themselves are fine for unflavored tea. For the issues regarding flavored tea, make sure you see above.
All in all, a very blessed Passover to my Jewish friends and readers!