2019 interview with Michael Van der Linden, founder and owner of Linden Botanicals, an online tea store. He was interviewed by our friends at Colorado-based Woodsong Coffee.
How did you become a Coloradan?
I was a transplant. I came here from Connecticut because my kids came out here first. They said it has been great, and now I’ve been here about six years.
Why did you start an online tea store?
My online tea store, Linden Botanicals, was founded out of a passion for helping people optimize their health. I had Lyme disease 10 years ago. Three years of antibiotics did nothing. Then I found Phyllanthus niruri, a plant from the Amazon rainforest known for aiding kidney health. Lyme disease can affect every system and get into your central nervous system. Phyllanthus niruri originally helped me with a kidney stone (the plant’s other name, Chanca Piedra, means “stone breaker”). I did a lot more research and learned it could also be helpful for Lyme disease. Over 1,000 studies have been done on this plant.
You can make the tea like you would drip coffee using the powdered plant. Tea has many health benefits, and I use it daily. I drink a mix of Phyllanthus niruri, Terminalia chebula, and Cistanche tubulosa before workouts. Terminalia helps support cartilage and joints. Cistanche is a good support for bones and muscles. I use a ½ teaspoon of the mixed extracts in a cup of blueberry juice. You could use water or another juice, that’s just my preference.
Where are your herbs sourced, and how did you choose which your online tea store will sell?
When I decided to open an online tea store, I set out to narrow our selection, only choosing plants with research and science behind them. We currently sell 10 teas, and Phyllanthus niruri was the first one we selected because of my experience with it. The rest were selected after careful research to be sure they are effective and safe.
I wanted my online tea store to only sell teas that would repair the body’s systems. Where the plants come from and when they’re picked all make a difference. You want to be sure you’re getting the real plant that’s the best quality of its type. Phyllanthus niruri comes from Peru, in the Amazon. Cistanche tubulosa is found in Mongolia. Terminalia chebula is from a tree in India. As with grapes, the terroir matters for their phytochemical value.
We visited the countries and growers for teas we were interested in sourcing for our online tea store. The point of visiting is to get to know the people collecting and drying the plants. Having tea with growers is a great way to get to know them. We wanted to be sure that the process would be fair for everyone involved in growing and sourcing the plants and that every plant was organic and processed in FDA-certified facilities. Some companies pay workers a fraction of a penny, so meeting with the entire supply chain helps ensure workers are getting fair wages.
In Peru, we explored the Amazon jungles to find Phyllanthus niruri. In India, we went out into the fields and met members of women’s cooperatives. We’re trying to be conscious of the whole process while educating customers about the plants and their benefits. Drinking teas from these plants is all about optimizing health.
What’s your favorite tea-sourcing travel story?
Morocco is a good example of our sourcing philosophy. We went with an open mind to learn from local traditions. What we learned has convinced me to add Argan oil to our online tea store. It has a nutty flavor and can be used as a carrier oil for other herbs (a very different use from the hair products you may be familiar with). The trip was amazing. The people were all so friendly and inviting. Plus we got to ride camels into the dunes of the Sahara Desert, drink Moroccan mint tea, camp in the desert, and see the Milky Way without city light pollution.
What would you recommend to someone new to herbal teas who visits your tea store?
For anyone visiting our online tea store, Phyllanthus niruri is usually my prime recommendation. It supports so many key body systems that most anyone can benefit. Terminalia chebula and Cistanche tubulosa are great if you’re training for a marathon or looking to supplement your exercise program to protect your body.
I’d remind someone interested in starting to drink herbal teas that the teas should be combined with getting enough sleep, exercise and nutrition – eating well and cutting out things from your diet and life that make you sick. If those three things are in order, then the right herbal teas will help you.
What are your coffee and tea rites?
Every morning I make my girlfriend coffee in the espresso machine. It’s nice to get the morning started for her. I drink tea throughout the day; it’s something I grew up with, and there’s a strong connection, for me, between tea and my mother. Her favorite was earl grey, which was also mine before Phyllanthus niruri.
If you could have coffee or tea with anyone, who would it be?
There are so many people to choose – the last person on Earth? Or Johan Sebastian Bach circa 1733 so we could talk about the coffee that inspired him to write Coffee Cantata. Its libretto is about a girl trying to convince her father to let her drink coffee.SHOP NOW