Sleep Smarts

54 Sleep Teas Later, Here Are the Tastiest—& Sleepiest

According to one very tired writer.

January 14, 2022
Photo by MJ Kroeger

Sleep Smarts is your guide to shut-eye—with trusty tips, product recs, and new routines for a better night’s rest.

After two weeks of drinking sleep-inducing herbal teas, I have never been so tired in my life. Flavor aside, these teas knocked me out. Like in the middle of the workday and during my pre-bed yoga practice (sorry, Adriene).

Drinking tea before bed is said to have a calming effect, improve sleep quality, and overall give you a restful sleep. Here’s the thing: I haven’t had a bad night’s sleep since 1995 when I was a nocturnal newborn. I’ve slept through phones ringing in the middle of the night and literal trees falling down (the norm during snowy Connecticut winters). I didn’t think I had any sleep problems that needed fixing, especially from just an eight-ounce cup of bedtime tea, but I was wrong. As I worked my way through 54 different caffeine-free tea bags, I found myself dozing off at inconvenient times, which I’m sure was only encouraged by my pandemic habit of working in a nearly horizontal position on the couch in front of the television.

I broke all of the teas down into six categories: classic bedtime, chamomile, lavender, spiced, fruity, and green teas. I ranked my favorite tea and the runner-up in each category. There were plenty of teas I tried that were not bad, but they weren’t exactly my cup of tea (had to). Along the way, I try to explain my own personal tasting biases—i.e. I have a huge sweet tooth and hate plain ole black tea—which certainly affected my overall impressions.

Best Classic Bedtime Tea

The category that started it all. I found that most bedtime or relaxing teas start with a trio of chamomile, spearmint, and lemongrass, including Celestial Seasonings (you know the bear). Sometimes, that’s all it takes to make a good cup of pre-sleep tea, but my favorites were enhanced by citrus and floral ingredients too.

Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime

What It’s Supposed to Taste Like

“This most beloved of herbal teas gets its comforting aroma and perfectly balanced flavor from a blend of soothing herbs, including delicate chamomile, cool spearmint, and fresh lemongrass.”

What It Actually Tastes Like

Celestial Seasonings, the OG producer of “sleepytime teas,” sells probably a dozen variations on this classic blend, but this one was the best. The flavors of chamomile and spearmint were well-balanced, but I do think that it could have benefited from a longer steep time (I’d recommend seven minutes instead of the suggested four to six minutes) or a second tea bag.

Runner Up: DavidsTea Valerian Nights

What It’s Supposed to Taste Like

“Relax and unwind with a scrumptious caffeine-free infusion of rich caramel and creamy coconut. It’s sweet. It’s decadent. And it’ll have you pajama-ready thanks to its calming base of valerian root—one of nature’s most popular sleepytime ingredients.”

What It Actually Tastes Like

Aside from chamomile and lavender, valerian root is one of the most popular sleep aid ingredients in tea. This one from DavidsTea smells lovely, but tastes very sweet. Admittedly, I did not read the ingredients list on this one before drinking it, which is why I was so off-put by its flavor. Once I read the ingredients (apple, coconut, and caramel were the dominating flavors), this made more sense and I ultimately drank the entire cup. Cue the ZZZs.

Best Chamomile Tea

For this test, I tried eight different chamomile teas. None of them were bad, but that could be because I’m biased and do enjoy drinking the occasional cup of chamomile. Some I tried were perfectly fine but could have benefited from a longer steep or a second tea bag, which I think demonstrates that the contents in the original tea bag are maybe not as high-quality as others (or maybe it’s proof that I just like a really strong cup of tea). However, two stood above the rest, metaphorically speaking:

TAZO Calm Chamomile

What It’s Supposed to Taste Like

“We’ve always wondered what it's like to float away on a sun-drenched bed of clouds, so we crafted a tea that we think creates the same feeling. Chamomile, rose petals, lemon balm, and peppermint blend together creating a perfect cloud-top calm moment.”

What It Actually Tastes Like

This was a really enjoyable cup of chamomile. It was lighter and more floral than the usual chamomile, thanks to accent ingredients like hibiscus flowers and rose petals. I kept coming back to this one as a palate cleanser after sipping some less easily drinkable ones. Its aroma is fragrant without clearing out your sinuses, which is to say it smells like a warm spring day (grab your jean jacket).

Runner Up: Rishi Chamomile Medley

What It’s Supposed to Taste Like

“Our gourmet chamomile blend offers a honey-like sweetness with subtle, soothing counterpoints of citrus-scented herbs. Chamomile has been used as a calming folk herb tea throughout the Mediterranean for millennia, dating back to Ancient Greece. This timeless blend is designed to relax, refresh and please the palate.”

What It Actually Tastes Like

This is a solid cup of chamomile tea if what you like is plain chamomile tea. I was actually surprised to see that this one is made with additional herbs and aromatics, as ingredients like lemongrass and spearmint were less pronounced than in other medleys I tried.

Best Lavender Tea

I was very skeptical of drinking lavender tea and honestly, I kept putting it off. I expected that all would taste like soap or smell like walking into a Lush store in 2008. And some did. Others were a genuine cup of liquid tranquility, so without further ado:

Yogi Honey Lavender Stress Relief

What It’s Supposed to Taste Like

“Relax and breathe in the enchanting aroma of our Honey Lavender Stress Relief tea. Traditionally used relaxing herbs lavender, chamomile, and lemon balm combine in this delicious blend to soothe your mind and body during a stressful day or to unwind into a restful night.”

What It Actually Tastes Like

I decided to take Yogi at their word and attempted to relax and breathe in their promised relaxing aroma. “Oh, that’s lovely!” I said to myself and Ross Geller, my usual Thursday afternoon company. This one smelled fresh and floral and was a far cry from any cotton candy-colored bath bombs. The flavor was much better than I expected too and the hint of lemon was quite soothing. I will note that although this tea is called Honey Lavender, lavender flower and lavender flavor are the 8th and 11th ingredients on the list, respectively, and honey flavor is the very last ingredient. If you’re looking for a true lavender tea, this is not it. But if what you’re after is a soothing blend, boil some water, grab your favorite mug, and settle into The One Where Everybody Finds Out!

Runner Up: TAZO Dream

What It’s Supposed to Taste Like

“With our soothing blend of superstar valerian root, calming chamomile, aromatic lavender, almond, and sweet hints of vanilla flavor, dreamland awaits. Let's go, you beautiful dreamer you.”

What It Actually Tastes Like

My initial impression was that this tea (which is technically a chamomile-lavender blend) was not bad, but could have benefited from a longer steep (I’d suggest six to seven minutes rather than the recommended four minutes). The flavor was smooth, sans any astringency, and tasted like a fruitier version of regular chamomile. This one lost imaginary points for the aftertaste, which had a cloying, artificial vanilla-almond flavor.

Best Spiced Teas

My palate for teas tends to lean spicy, so I was both extra excited and admittedly, probably a little too critical of these teas. Perhaps that plays into the fact that I found most of these to be quite bad. Or maybe they are just quite bad.

Palais Des Thes Rooibos Des Vahines

What It’s Supposed to Taste Like

Most of the box is written in French so I honestly don’t know, but here’s the gist of it: “Be swept away to a tropical island with this indulgent, warming rooibos offering vanilla and almond flavours.” Don’t mind if I do.

What It Actually Tastes Like

Allow me to take you to an iconic scene from 17 Again in which Ned Gold (the best friend of protagonist Mike O’Donnell, played by Matthew Perry) dramatically swirls, sniffs, sips, and swishes a glass of red wine and then says, “that’s delightful.” That’s how I feel about this tea. It has a pronounced almond aroma that does not smell at all artificial. Does it immediately transport me to St. Barts with Jimmy Buffet serenading me in the background? No (though I will be manifesting that for 2022). Does it make me want to go to sleep? Not really. But it’s a delicious, high-quality cup of tea that I definitely plan to drink again.

Runner Up: None

Sadly, the rest of the spiced teas that I tried tasted like watered-down chai tea or had a bad aftertaste of artificial vanilla flavor (a common ingredient). And I’m sure you don’t want to spend money on the tea that I noted was “drinkable, but not enjoyable.” So for your sake and mine, let’s just move on.

Best Fruity Teas

I don’t typically associate fruit teas with better sleep, but a few of these blends included sleep-inducing ingredients like chamomile, lemongrass, and spearmint.

DavidsTea Sleepy Lychee

What It’s Supposed to Taste Like

“This delicate & fruity gold blend is rooted in sweet lychee with a myriad of floral jasmine notes. If you’re familiar with jasmine, we think you’ll agree that the scent alone brings a sense of calm. We then mixed in delectable lime tree blossoms & relaxing lemongrass. Nighty night, tea fam.”

What It Actually Tastes Like

For a lychee tea, it seems silly that lychee is the very last ingredient in this tea. Really, David? But lychee is naturally quite sweet, and so is this tea, so I guess it’s good that it’s not higher on the ingredients list. The aroma is relatively mild compared to the lovely contents inside the cup. I will say, this tea did not make me want to go to sleep at all, but rather wear a lei and eat fried rice with pork belly served inside a partially hollowed pineapple. And if you prefer less sweet, fruit-forward teas (like my English breakfast-drinking mother), you probably won’t like this.

Runner Up: TAZO Glazed Lemon Loaf

What It’s Supposed to Taste Like

“Revel in a dessert-worthy tea with tangy notes of lemon & velvety, creamy vanilla.”

What It Actually Tastes Like

Apparently, this tea went totally viral on TikTok for its dessert-like qualities. And this actually does taste like the super moist glazed lemon loaf from Starbucks that used to be my go-to airport snack. It doesn’t taste like other bedtime teas in that it’s not cozy or earthy. But it’s delicious to drink at 8pm with dessert just before bed. For more buttery, lemony flavor, I’d recommend steeping it for a minute or two longer than what the package recommends.

Best Green Tea

Green teas are generally not known as a sleep aid, which is why they’re last on this list, but I did find a couple of them to be extremely soothing. If what you’re after is feeling just slightly less stressed about, oh I don’t know, rising Omicron cases, work-life balance, or who Pete Davidson will date next, these teas will help you feel better (take it from someone who is constantly stressed about Pete Davidson’s love life).

Palais Des Thes Jet Lag Wake Up

What It’s Supposed to Taste Like

“A blend of green tea, mate, and matcha with notes of ginger and grapefruit to help you regain your energy.”

What It Actually Tastes Like

Ironically, this soothing sleep tea is actually inspired to give you a burst of energy after a long flight. However, I found it to be quite charming and relaxing. It delivered zen vibes in every sip and I thought “This must be how Gwyneth Paltrow feels every day.” It tasted like fading sunshine or the glare on a portrait in a Polaroid—aka very subtly fruity with a smooth, calming finish. Mate is a drink widely known for its energizing benefits, so I wouldn’t recommend drinking this tea, which contains mate as its second of just four ingredients, before bed; if you are, however, looking for a tea to help reduce feelings of the stress of anxiety, this is your gal.

Runner Up: Vahdam Teas Chamomile Mint Citrus

What It’s Supposed to Taste Like

“Fresh and pure green tea blended with buoyant chamomile, mint, and citrusy notes of lemongrass.”

What It Actually Tastes Like

What most impressed me about Vahdam Teas was the practical packaging. The loose leaf tea came vacuum-sealed in a pine green bag, which you then transferred to a new pine green resealable bag. The process was a little messy, but it made me believe that I was tasting the freshest tea possible. And this was a lovely cup of green tea (coming from someone who assumed for years that green tea would just taste like vegetable broth). This is a delicious, albeit not-at-all sweet, introduction to the category.

Sleep Smarts is your guide to shut-eye—with trusty tips, product recs, and new routines for a better night’s rest.

What’s your favorite bedtime tea? Sound off in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • MegTan
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Former Food52 Staff Editor


MegTan January 29, 2022
I prefer buckwheat tea, corn tea, chrysanthemum or genmaicha tea at bedtime. All are so comforting and only genmaicha has caffeine (but it’s minimal)
Karen January 24, 2022
Harney & Sons teas for the win! I love their Hot Cinnamon Spice. It comes in both decaf and regular, and the decaf is a decadent evening treat. Their Hemp Moringa is a great tasting and very effective sleepytime tea!
Kelly V. February 10, 2022
Hot Cinnamon Spice is delicious!
Deb W. January 23, 2022
With all due respect to the teas honored above, I would also highly recommend checking out Upton Teas as well as Pukka Teas
Kelly V. February 10, 2022
Thanks for sharing these recommendations!
louise61 January 23, 2022
Just pure dried lemon balm. Valerian root puts me to sleep but I seem to have wilder dreams and generally a less restful sleep. Lemon balm is delicious and can put me under before I even finish the cup. Bonus if you're a gardener - it's stupid easy to grow (it's a member of the mint family) either in a pot or in the ground, and it dries beautifully. Zero cost to you once you have the plant.
Jeannine R. January 23, 2022
As someone who does not have a great night’s sleep on a regular basis and have tried a multitude of potions and teas, the only one that works and tastes great is Sakara Sleep Tea.
Kelly V. February 10, 2022
Good to know!
NorthForker January 23, 2022
All I care about is whether or not it makes me feel sleepy, not how it tastes.
Kelly V. February 10, 2022
I hear you, but I always prefer to drink something that's delicious too :)
Linda H. January 23, 2022
I love 'The Nightcap' from Homegrown Herb and Tea in Portland, Maine. ( A soothing and tasty blend of valerian root, chamomile, linden flowers, lemon balm, hops and lavender - I make with a touch of honey. I prefer loose tea, not commercial tea bags, so I can adjust strength easily.
Raphaelle Z. January 23, 2022
I drink a LOT of herbal teas, and have been drinking “sleepy teas” for many years. Republic of tea makes a lovely lemon chamomile that is simple but well balanced. Their chamomile rose sleep tea is also very high on my list. My absolute favorite is sweet lullaby by Paper and Tea and sadly I haven’t been able to find more for a while now. It’s a lovely blend, with verbena, chamomile and rose and more, it makes a perfect cup of relaxing sleep inducing tea.
[email protected] January 23, 2022
How about Yogi brand Kava tea?
mkd January 18, 2022
It isn't clear to me which one is the sleepiest? Is it Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime since that was ranked best overall?
Kelly V. January 18, 2022
I found many of them to be equally sleepy, but I'd put Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime, DavidsTea Dream, and Tazo Chamomile Calm at the top of the list!
njulyp January 16, 2022
Oops hit submit accidentally. It's sweet naturally with honeybush and cinnamon but not cloying, and if I'm ever sore throaty, a long steep time or extra bag actually has noticeable soothing. Thank you for trying so many!
njulyp January 16, 2022
I'm curious if or why Good Earth's Sweet and Spicy didn't make the list? I've found the caffeine-free version of the original to be a direct comfort-line to bed for decades! It'- sweet
Kelly V. January 18, 2022
I actually didn't try that one but thanks for the recommendation!
HalfPint January 14, 2022
Not a fan of chamomile which is in almost EVERY herbal sleep time tea, so I prefer chrysanthemum tea. It has a light floral note that isn't as aggressive as chamomile.
Windischgirl January 14, 2022
I’m with you on avoiding chamomile. It’s related to ragweed so can be an issue for people with seasonal allergies (Moi) and the flavor/fragrance just doesn’t agree with me. I too am frustrated because it’s everywhere in teas and body products. No thank you.
I’d love to learn more about soothing/sleep inducing teas that DON’T have chamomile. Thanks for the hint about chrysanthemum; I’ll have to try!
Kelly V. January 18, 2022
If you like floral tea, you might enjoy the Tazo Calm Chamomile. The chamomile flavor was VERY gentle!
Geckogirl52 January 14, 2022
Too bad you missed Plum Deluxe Night Cap Herbal Tea! It works the best for me and friends. A lovely blend of green rooibos, several sleep herbs, and valerian root. Plum Deluxe is a small indie tea blending company out of Portland, Oregon! Their teas are well worth trying! Many lovely blends and seasonal specialties.
Kelly V. January 18, 2022
Thank you for the lovely recommendation! I'll have to try it.