I am a tea drinker. By that, I mean that in my kitchen you can find four different types of Black China teas, Indian, Ceylon, Chai, Yerba Mate, jasmine, sencha, you get the picture. I have my favorite cups for different types of teas, my favorite tea pots and steeping baskets. I am a nut.
It was when I became pregnant that I stopped to think. Every single tea in my collection had pretty high levels of caffeine. And I have been banned from drinking any for a while. I began to panic. I had to find a replacement quickly or I would go crazy.
You see, it’s not just about the caffeine. It’s about the ritual, the steeping – when you take a tea break you can actually breathe a little. A few times a day, I say “I’m going to go make some tea.” I get up from my desk and head to the office kitchen, where I can watch the pot boil to the proper temperature, I can prepare the tea pot and steep whatever tea I bring with me that day. It’s a ritual, there is no different word to describe it.
I can completely understand why in Japan tea making has its own ceremony. It’s a purposeful break from life that you take to notice everything around you again. And in our busy world it’s a thing of indescribable value.
When I found out I couldn’t drink caffeine, my heart sunk a little. My friends asked me if I was against drinking herbal tea – and I couldn’t really say that I knew of any herbal teas aside from those mild tasting packets my mom used to make me when I was sick. Those didn’t taste really good. They tasted, well, “herbal”. Or “herby”. In my book that was mild and slightly chamomile like – and very bland.
A week later, my friend brought me a small package. I unwrapped it, and inside was a box of loose leaf tea. It was an elderflower and lemon tea. I eyed it suspiciously, and decided to finally brew a pot that day.
Very shortly, I was hooked. This had nothing to do with the horrible, dusty packets of tea that my mother kept in her cupboard (probably for too long as well). This was a rich explosion of taste. Not what I was used to, for sure.
Since then, I’ve been exploring the world of herbal and fruit teas. They have more effect on me than black and green tea – and they have a ton of health benefits as well.
If you are looking to cut down on caffeine for any reason, you should keep this in mind. You can not only cut down on caffeine but help yourself become healthier too. I have to admit that I love caffeine in my tea and went back to it when I could.
But as I wind down after a long day, I stop my caffeine intake after 4PM. It actually helps me get to sleep much sooner, and easier. I also cut down on screen time in the evening but that’s a whole other story.
I get my herbal teas from the same place I started to get my high quality black and green teas – it’s always better to get it from a professional tea and coffee shop, or even an herbalist than from a supermarket shelf.
The tea bags in the supermarket don’t always contain the best quality product. The taste of loose leaf tea of any sort – weather black, green or herbal is immeasurably better than the white mystery bags of shredded leaves.
After all, if I want to keep the “ritual” going, it’s best to have the best. It’s also great to mix these teas together, or with dried fruit to add to the flavor complexity. Here are some of my favorite kinds of herbal teas, and their respective health benefits:
Elderflower tea – Elderflowers taste like honey. It’s a heavy, mysterious smell. Why mysterious? It just feels that way. Elder trees and shrubs were considered to be magic by the people of Western and Eastern Europe for centuries. No wonder, because it helps with oxidative stress, and can be antiviral and anti-inflammatory too. It tastes wonderful with a little honey and a little lemon. *Newsflash – during the royal wedding the wedding cake was actually an elderflower and lemon cake. Need I say more?
Moringa leaf tea – This is a very powerful antioxidant and is full of vitamins. Moringa leaf will boost your energy levels because of this, without the caffeine. It’s a more refreshing, calm energy than the tightly would feeling you get from caffeine. It also may help lower blood pressure. It’s called the “Life Giving Tree” in some cultures, although it originally came from India. The knowledge about it’s benefit spread fast through the world. The taste is very “green”, and I like to mix it with other teas.
Pine needles tea – Pine needle tea tastes a bit like the forest on a hot summer day, and a little bit like Christmas. You pick. It is actually healthful because it contains a lot of Vitamin A. This means it’s good for your skin, hair, eyes and improves your red blood cell count.
Camomile tea – Camomile is the original healing herbal tea. It is very effective with any type of stomach problems, even irritable bowel syndrome and cramps. It has a very strong antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory effect. This is unfortunately, the most abused herbal tea – it doesn’t taste right when restrained in a white tea bag. Let it loose and brew beautiful whole flowers!
Nettle tea – Nettle tea helped me after my pregnancy when I needed an appetite suppressant – I was still in full eating for two mode. It is also a strong diuretic and helps to get rid your body of waste. Nettles are actually one of the most valuable herbs, containing flavonoids, carotenoids, Vitamin C, B, K1, triterpenes, sterols, and minerals – like calcium and magnesium. In fact, eating nettles is more nutritious than most green plants including spinach.
Peppermint Tea – Aah, the lowly peppermint. Peppermint has more more positive effects than I thought possible for such a tasty tea. It’s one of those teas that noticeably help with digestion and reduce bloating. This is my go to tea for a night cap because it helps with sleep, and is a mild sedative.
I feel like I found balance in my life – I still drink aromatic green or black tea in the mornings, but making a ritual out of herbal tea actually helps me to get my day in order. When I switch to an herbal tea, it means it’s time to wind down from a busy day. Try it – maybe it will help you gain some sanity.