A reader emailed me after she bought this tea and discovered that instead of a teabag filled with little pieces of cranberry and raspberry there was just flavouring mentioned on the ingredients list.

"Are they artificial flavourings?" she asked.

This is a common problem for people who turn to herbal or fruit teas thinking they are drinking something clean and simple, only to find flavourings listed.

Twinings Cranberry and Raspberry. $3.99 for 20 teabags.

Ingredients (greatest quantity first):

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Hibiscus

This is hibiscus flower which is in most fruit teas. It provides a tart, cranberry-like taste. It also has a lovely colour and for producers is a cheap ingredient to make up the volume of the teabag. It could also be good for you. I found a 2008 study which found three cups of hibiscus tea can lower blood pressure.

Apple pieces
Dried apple gives a sweet flavour to the tea. Many fruit teas will use apple as a base.

Rosehips
This will be in here mainly for flavour. Rosehip tea has a tart taste and is nutrient rich.

Elderflowers
These flowers have a reputation for being very good for you as they contain antiseptic and anti-inflammatory benefits. They also provide a nice hit of flavour.

Cranberry flavouring (6%)
The problem with flavouring is that the substance may taste like cranberry but it may not be cranberry fruit providing that flavour.

I contacted Twinings and asked them if there was actually any cranberry or raspberry in this tea.

Their response was direct: "No, there is no actual raspberry or cranberry in the blend."

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So that answers that question but then how is the flavouring made? "The flavourings are partly derived from the fruits mentioned."

So on the one hand there is no fruit but on the other hand the fruit is used to create flavour. I was confused so emailed them again asking them to explain.

And this is what they said: "The natural flavouring components are extracted from the plants using various methods depending on the nature of the component being extracted. These processes selectively separate the flavour components from other parts of the plant which do not contribute to its flavour - an example would be removing the citrus flavours from the peel 'cells' but leaving the fibrous cell material behind.

"Twinings generally uses flavouring granules (i.e. solid particles) in its tea bags. These are produced from the flavouring components plus a 'carrier' to protect the flavouring."

I would have liked to edit this down into something which makes sense but it was beyond me. Let's just believe that there is a tiny bit of the fruits in there somewhere and at least the flavouring is natural.

Liquorice root
This is commonly added into herbal and fruit teas to provide a sweet flavour.

Raspberry flavouring (4%)
As above.

My recommendations:
To make a genuine cranberry and raspberry tea there would be a lot of mucking around involving frozen berries, hot water, sieves and God knows what else. So have this tea if you want a fruity, sweet concoction which will give you precisely two calories. It may not contain any actual fruit but at least the flavours used are natural.

Highlights:
• No actual cranberry or raspberry in this tea.
• Uses natural flavouring.
• Only 2 calories per serve.