Although tea is only recently becoming more familiar to the modern Israeli palate, the tasty herbs used in some of the best local blends date back to the times of the Bible.
Inspired by the flora of the Land of Israel, Shalva Tea’s six premium blends feature herbs inspired by each region of Israel. Shalva itself is a Biblical Hebrew word, mentioned just once in a psalm attributed to King David, meaning peace, calmness and tranquility:
Pray for the well-being of Yerushalayim; “May those who love you be at peace. May there be well-being within your ramparts, peace in your citadels.” (Psalms 122:6-7)
Shalva Tea began was founded by David Ross. While he was earning his Master’s Degree in Forestry from Yale University, he traveled to Israel do conduct field work in Mount Carmel, which had been struck by devastating wildfires in 2010. He spent the summer researching the causes and solutions to wildfires, including letting the land naturally regenerate for more healthy plant diversity and safer forests.
Throughout this fieldwork, Ross would stumble upon an abundance of native aromatic herbs, bringing them home to drink as relaxing teas after hard days of work in the field. As an avid forager and herbal enthusiast, Ross did not find any locally made herbal teas in the supermarkets and decided to brew his own.
And as a committed environmentalist, David’s company reflects his values, focusing on native herbs, locally manufactured packaging, and natural ingredients. Helping to package his teas are young adults with disabilities, employed by the Shalva Israel Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (Shalva) that happens to share the same name as Shalva Tea. Shalva employees package half of Ross’s herbal blends, in terms of revenue, providing the young adults with vocational training and the job skills necessary to effectively join the mainstream job force.
Kalman Samuels, the non profit’s founder and president told Breaking Israel News, “It’s a nice concept to play with a few friends, but when you can have a child become a young person working in the community and getting involved, that’s the ultimate inclusion, and that’s what is happening here between Shalva and Shalva Tea.”
Shalva’s blends, inspired by Biblical herbs from each region include: Arava Calm (with chamomile, lemongrass, spearmint, licorice, and lavender); Carmel ForesTea (with rosemary, sumac, za’atar, zuta, elderberry, raspberry leaf, and calendula); Ein Gedi Digestif (fennel seed, sage, dandelion, zuta, cactus flower, and carob); Soothing Elah Valley (with peppermint, rose petal, licorice, sumac, zuta, and rose hip); Refreshing Galil (with lemongrass, olive leaf, lemon balm, dandelion, and sage); and Jerusalem Harmony (with lemongrass, hibiscus, spearmint, rose petal, olive leaf, sage, cardamom, and calendula).
According to Ross, relating to the Carmel ForesTea blend, “hyssop (also known as za’atar) branches were used to paint blood on the Israelite doorposts before leaving Egypt.”
“Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and to the two doorposts. None of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning.” (Exodus 12:22)
“It was also used as part of a potion for skin diseases, and also as a general cleansing herb. Today, hyssop is widely used in teas for anyone who is about to come down with a cold. The whole Carmel ForesTea blend (formerly Carmel ImmuniTea) is made to be an immune-booster,” said Ross.
“Purge me with hyssop till I am pure; wash me till I am whiter than snow.” (Psalms 51:9)
Relating to the olive leaf in the Refreshing Galil blend, said Ross: “Olives and olive trees are the first plant species to be mentioned in the bible, and probably the most often mentioned.”
“The dove came back to him toward evening, and there in its bill was a plucked-off olive leaf! Then Noach knew that the waters had decreased on the earth.”(Genesis 8:11)
From a reference widely thought to be about olives, Ross cited Ezekiel 47:12:
“All kinds of trees for food will grow up on both banks of the stream. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail; they will yield new fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the Temple. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”
“Olive leaves have a powerful history of being used for medicine, including for antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Also used in helping to lower blood pressure and in liver cleanses,” said Ross.
Ross’s connection to the land goes even further than his teas and Biblical references. He started the business in 2014, shortly after he made aliyah to Israel, fulfilling the prophetic return to the land.
“The outdoor world is for me, a way to connect to the land of Israel through the plants growing on the ground,” Ross told Breaking Israel News. “To get to know the local ecology is to feel more comfortable in that surrounding. And to know where they are in the Torah, it brings it full circle for me.”
“I made aliyah because I support the land of Israel,” Ross said. “The land has always been a powerful component in my life.” He said he doesn’t shy away from using the land of Israel as a part of his marketing strategy.
“The branding of the project is herbal teas from the land of Israel. Other tea companies are not necessarily advertising because of BDS,” he maintained. “I have talked to distributors who say that while they aren’t against buying Israeli products, Israel is such a political entity that they don’t want to touch it, as it could potentially could ruffle feathers.”
But Ross expressed his pride that herbs from the land resonate with people who support Israel.
“Judaism is all about the land in Israel, and Christians who support that vision and see the prophecies of Jews coming back to the land are that message abroad,” he said.
With US online orders shipped from New York, Ross said tea drinkers now have an opportunity to smell and taste the land, and bring herbal infusions from the land into their home as a daily item.
“To have Shalva in your kitchen cabinet is to have Israel in your home,” Ross said.