Tea as we know it was apparently discovered in around 2737 B.C. when the Chinese Emperor Shennung, drank the result of some tea leaves – unfermented and green – blowing into his cup of hot water. He was curious when he noticed the colour changing and took a sip. 3000 years later, the fermentation happened in order to keep the leaves throughout the year. As always, seasonal shortages are the mother of invention and black tea was the result. Of course, a variety of flavours was added as well and each Asian country, including the sub-continent, has its own brew. Assam and China tea are the two most widely drunk, followed by unfermented green tea.
If you have to drink anything, then it is possible that green tea, of a Japanese powdered quality, may the best for your health. Yes, there’s a small amount of caffeine in there but the anti-oxidants make it worth the risk.
There you can find a huge amount of information regarding the history of tea and its origins as a drink, how it was brought to the west, politicized and its health benefits so I won’t duplicate that here.
Wikipedia also summarizes the tea story.
However, what I would like to focus on here is the fact that you can make your own perfectly good teas by picking a few leaves and pouring boiling water over them. As well, you can use dried orange peel to give them an extra bit of zing. Below are some tea ideas you may not have considered. For most, the quantities are not crucial. Have a play with tastes and experiment. Just don’t overdo the nutmeg, cinnamon or poppy seeds!
You can grow most of these on your apartment terrace or back yard and think of the money you will save, to say NOTHING of the carbon emissions saved in not having to import tea from other continents.
If you MUST drink tea though (and I MUST in the morning), make it Fairtrade tea.
1. Hibiscus tea: You can either use the red blossoms of hibiscus, collect them and dry them, remove the stamens and any green bit and when you have a few, pour hot water over. Do not add milk as this will curdle. If it is not sweet enough, add some honey.
2. Mint – pick a few leaves of normal mint, spearmint, pennyroyal or any other mint and infuse as above. No need to dry these as fresh is great.
3. Sage – a few sage leaves as an infusion is a good menopause symptom reliever. Drink this INSTEAD of normal tea especially at night and sweats will reduce.
4. Lemon – a few slices in hot water make a great sipping drink and of course, good for colds especially with the addition of honey.
5. Lemon/Ginger – 6 cups water
- 1/4 cup peeled and chopped fresh ginger
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup firmly packed fresh mint leaves
- 6 tablespoons dark honey
- 1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges
In a large saucepan over high heat, combine the water, ginger and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the mint, and let steep for 5 minutes.
Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve lined with a jelly bag, pressing down lightly on the ginger and mint to extract as much as you can. Discard the mint and ginger.
Stir the honey into the tisane. Serve hot or iced, garnished with a lemon wedge and some fresh mint. I also like to cut ginger slices lengthwise along the knobs as these impaled on a satay skewer make great ‘spoons’.
6. Chamomile tea – dry the chamomile you pick in the early morning. Hang it in the kitchen till totally dry (not in a dusty spot though) and pick around a tablespoon and soak it in hot water. Top up as required with more water. I have one on the go at night instead of coffee.
7. Dried orange peel with a couple of cloves makes a lovely drink. Don’t include the bitter pith.
8. Apple cider vinegar with cinnamon and top up with hot water is not just a lovely winter tisane but has positive health benefits.
9. Rosemary and lemon – add some lemon zest to around a dessert spoon of fresh rosemary leaves.
10. Cherry stalk tisane – dry stems of cherries for around a week. To make tea, add 2 tablespoons to a half litre of water. Allow to steep. Amazing taste from something that is considered a waste product!
11. Cardamom tisane:
- 2 cups water,
- 6 lightly crushed green cardamom pods
- 2 whole cloves,
- 2 cracked black peppercorns,
- 1/2 tbsp. grated ginger root
1 tbsp. honey or agave nectar (optional), Milk (optional, to taste). Boil all together for 10 minutes and let stand for 30 minutes. Bring back up to a boiling heat. Strain into cups and add milk if you are a chai drinker.
12. Lemon verbena tea – find a friend with some growing in the garden. Pluck the leaves (a tablespoon to a cup).
Now – over to you! There must be thousands of tea recipes out there!! Add them to our list.