The Story of Peppermint

The Story of Peppermint

Gum, toothpaste, candy canes, herbal teas, mojitos, breath mints, ice cream, chocolate. It is clear that peppermint is a ubiquitous plant we know and love. But where does it come from and what is its story? With the launch of our limited edition Peppermint Cacao, we offer a behind-the-scenes look into the making of mint.

Ben, circa 2015

With all the tales we tell of exotic herbs from around the world, it may come as a surprise that peppermint is a bit of a homegrown hero. In fact, the best mint in the world comes from a particular region of the US, the Columbia River Basin of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. This area is east of the Cascades and is much drier and hotter than the coastal Pacific Northwest we often think of. Thousands of acres here are under mint cultivation. What makes this place so special?

Image credit: Aromatics, Inc.

Aromatic herbs like peppermint are strongly affected by the growing climate. Just as with people, there is an ideal amount of stress for plants too. The swing between the hot sunny days and the cool nights that are found in the Columbia Basin provide enough “good” plant stress to promote high levels of essential oil production in the plants. On top of that, irrigation is better than rainfall for volatile oil accumulation because too much rain washes off some of the oils on the leaves. The Columbia River offers the perfect source of irrigated water. With this mix of elements and landscape, menthol content in the mint here is among the highest in the world.

Swathing the mint. Image credit: Aromatics, Inc.

Peppermint is harvested 2-3 times a year, depending on how hot the summer is and how fast the mint grows. An ingenious system is employed, where the swather cuts the mint low enough to capture all of the leaves, but high enough to leave 6" of bare stem still in the ground. This allows the cut mint leaves to then lay on top of the uncut stems and dry with the benefit of airflow underneath.

Image credit: Aromatics, Inc.

Drying like this in the field is another key to high quality mint. Artificial indoor drying is often at higher temperatures and causes volatilization of the precious essential oils. After 3-5 days of drying our mint is ready to be picked up in a thresher and transported to the production facility.

Thresher collecting dry leaves. Image credit: Aromatics, Inc.

At the production facility, the mint leaves are cleaned of all stems, rocks, and bugs, milled to the desired size, and sent out for comprehensive lab testing. These organic fields have been hand weeded for months, but these quality steps further ensure no non-mint plant material is present. Tasting the different mints from different farms is also an important part of the process, as there is variation between lots and some companies like mint that is sharp and bright, while others prefer more sweet, dark, and chocolate notes.

Image credit: Aromatics, Inc.

We couldn’t be prouder to use American-grown organic peppermint leaf & oil. In this season of gratitude, we’re grateful to share our love of this plant with you and go beyond our blends and into the individual ingredients that we couldn’t exist without. One bag of Rasa is not just our handiwork, but the effort of entire communities, the product of unique ecologies, and a network of relationships and stories that inspire us and feed us.

Cover Photo Credit: Aromatics, Inc. 

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