Tea Time with Propolis
There’s a new buzz going around and it’s all about propolis.
Jonathan Piechnik and I first met through Instagram all the way back in July 2016. At the time, I was learning more about bees through my friends at Eco Not Ego and thought Jonathan’s Propolis Tea Co. would be a great partner. Since then we’ve emailed back and forth, month after month, until Jonathan had his packaging ready and I had my blog up and rolling! And here we are!
Until I “met” (let’s be honest here, this is a completely online relationship, but I’m 100% sure we’d make fast real-life friends over a cuppa!) Jonathan, I had no idea what propolis was. Neither did Jonathan when he started his beekeeping course at the Honeybee Centre in Surrey, B.C., in January 2015. His business mind perked up when his instructor said, “Could someone please build a company that sells propolis? It’s high in demand, it’s a great product and it’s not used very much throughout Canada.”
Jonathan did his research and discovered there was very little use of propolis except in capsule and extract forms sold in health food stores. He set forth to find a user-friendly way for people to consume propolis without popping a pill. “I became passionate when I started researching the health benefits of propolis,” Jonathan says. Health benefits of propolis, according to Propolis Tea Co., include anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antihistamine properties. “I thought if I can expose the effects of propolis, we can popularize it and get more companies actually selling it,” he adds. “I saw a hair commercial that said ‘now with propolis’ and I lost my mind!”
I also lost my mind when I tasted his tea. The mixture of earl grey with lavender and propolis made this traditional tea sweeter and creamier. I loved the floral notes and held my mug close to bask in its quintessential earl grey aroma. It was an ideal accompaniment to my fleece bathrobe and feet resting close to my baseboard heaters.
On that warm, high note, we sat down for a Skype interview so I could learn more about propolis and Jonathan’s teas.
Laura: What is propolis?
Jonathan: Propolis is a mixture of several honeybee products and vegetation that we know of — pollen, wax, essential oils and resin from trees. For trees, the resin is an immune system. It’s anti-bacterial and it’s what keeps a tree from dying. Propolis is used as an internal immune system within the hive. The bees smear it along the inside, they put it along the caps in the comb, and they use it to help with air circulation in the hive.
Propolis was used as the antibiotics of the past. They used it to fight bacteria, they used it on cuts, they used it when they were sick — in all those areas it was extremely beneficial. The great thing about it is the resins of trees must continuously evolve to fight ever-evolving bacteria and fungi that would otherwise kill the tree. So if we use "updated" propolis, which contains said resins, it could be able to fight bacteria that have already become resistant to standard antibiotics.
L: Why mix propolis with tea?
J: The idea started when I was working at a summer camp and I would get an hour off for lunch. I spent that time researching different methods of using propolis. My initial idea was for it to be in food form, but propolis on it’s own doesn’t taste great and has an odd texture to the resin — that’s why it’s normally found in capsule form.
A friend of mine suggested I mix it in tea. I thought, tea is amazing, let’s make it even better. And, let’s do something for honeybees as well.
L: Did you encounter any challenges in the process?
J: At first, I threw away the idea as propolis is not water-soluble because of the resin and wax. So I started researching where I could get high-quality, water-soluble propolis. I found a pharmaceutical company in Brazil, where the high-humidity causes bacteria to be stronger and multiply at a far more rapid pace than low-humidity locations. This creates stronger resins in the trees that survive. Their propolis is then bound with cassava starch to make it water-soluble.
The teas I use come from an importer in Langley, B.C. They are certified organic and import teas from around the world to make their own blends. I design my own blends and then gather the tea and propolis, and mix them together myself in a neighbourhood church kitchen so it’s food-safe. The amount of propolis in each heaping teaspoon of my tea is equal to or more than the amount that you would take in a standard 300mg capsule.
L: Should you only drink propolis tea when you’re sick?
J: It’s more of an organic, gradual, “hey, I’m more healthy now” drink. You’re not taking this only when you’re sick; you’re taking this before, during and after. Propolis works well for both preventative care and when you’re ill.
How to make propolis tea:
- 1 heaping tsp. per cup of tea
Steep for 2 minutes for 1 cup of tea, or 3-4 minutes for a pot of tea
If you need to sweeten, try using honey gathered from hives near blueberry bushes. According, to Jonathan, it’s the perfect complement.
For more info about Propolis Tea visit propolistea.com
For every purchase made, Propolis Tea will commit 5% of the profit to building local honeybee hives and caring for honeybees.
Propolis Tea Co. provided A Lush Life blog with a sample of tea for this post.