Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Beginner's Guide to {Herbal} Tea

I became an herbal tea aficionado for three reasons:

{1} I worked in a cafe where coffee and tea were only 50 cents and everything else was expensive.
{2} I'm a bookish person, and bookish people like tea
{3} I'm a Mormon, and Mormons don't drink "real" tea.

Okay, number 2 is kind of a joke. But I have really come to love herbal tea, and I've found it a great way to get myself to drink water and avoid sugary drinks like soda and fruit juice. People have asked me about different herbal teas, and I thought it would be fun to outline some of my favorites. 

First of all: How is herbal tea different from "regular" tea?

Herbal isn't actually tea, and that is why you will frequently see it referred to as an infusion rather than a tea. It doesn't contain any actual tea leaves. Instead, it is made by steeping fruit, plants, herbs, and/or spices in hot water.

Second of all: How do you make it?

Hot: Heat water, steep the tea bags. Usually you steep for about five minutes. I like my tea really strong, so I usually do it longer. I usually don't add sweetener to hot tea. 

Cold: Heat water and steep the tea bags. If you want to use a granulated sweetener or honey, stir it in before pouring the tea over ice or sticking it in the refrigerator. If you pour over ice, you should make your tea double strength so it isn't diluted by the melted ice. I prefer to use a liquid sweetener with iced tea because it dissolves better -- my favorite is liquid stevia. While I don't usually use sweetener with hot tea, I can't stand cold tea without sweetener. Sometimes if I am making a big pitcher I mix different kinds of tea. 

Tea latte: Can be hot or cold. Half tea, half milk. Again, I always use sweetener with cold. Sometimes I use it with hot if I am treating myself. 

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf -- They have the best herbal tea, hands down. You can also purchase it. It's on the pricey side -- $8.75 for 20 tea bags.

:: African Sunrise
What it is: Honeybush, which is similar to rooibos (more about that in a minute). It is sweet and mild.
How I like it: Hot, cold, and tea latte. This tea tastes good no matter what.

:: Chai Rooibos
What it is: Rooibos, which is sometimes called "red tea" (but has no caffeine or tea leaves). This is a South African plant related to the honeybush. It is flavorful and a little spicy. The chai are spices added to the tea.
How I like it: Hot and in a tea latte (the best thing EVER). 
Special uses: Rooibos is antioxidant rich

Starbucks/Tazo -- They carry Tazo brand, which you can usually buy anywhere. They are a little bit lame about making tea lattes or icing herbal tea, but if you teach them how they can usually figure it out. 

:: Vanilla Rooibos
What it is: Basic rooibos with vanilla
How I like it: Hot
Special properties: Antioxidant

:: Wild Sweet Orange
What it is: Orange infusion with licorice and some other spices
How I like it: Hot

:: Passion
What it is: tropical fruit infusion
How I like it: Iced, and always with sweetener. It is very strong and a little sour. 

:: Rooibos tea latte
What it is: Concentrated, sweetened rooibos tea that can be mixed with milk for a tea latte
How I like it: Hot or cold, in a half and half ratio
Where to get it: Target, Sprouts (I've never seen it in a cafe)

Celestial -- This inexpensive brand is everywhere

:: Rooibos -- Same drill with everything. They also have a Rooibos vanilla mix, which is good as well.

:: Mandarin Orange:
What it is: Orange infusion with spices
How I like it: Hot

:: Goodnight Grape Sleepytime Kids
What it is: Grape infusion with chamomile and stevia. BEST THING EVER.
How I like it: Hot
Special properties: Makes you sleepy, is sweet and yet calorie free

:: Peach
What it is: Peach infusion
How I like it: Cold with stevia

:: Holiday Teas -- They also have these delicious Christmas themed teas. I love Sugar Plum Fairy (super sweet and spicy), Ginger Snap (lemony and gingery), and Sugar Cookie (barley, very good for before bed). All of these are best hot. I don't know if they ever get discontinued. I hope not. 

Bigelow -- Another cheapy brand, probably the one you are most familiar with if you drink herbal tea. 

:: Peppermint
What it is: Straight-up peppermint leaves
How I like it: Hot, cold, or tea latte. Surprisingly refreshing when cold.
Special properties: Soothes nausea, suppresses lactation (I chugged about a gallon of it when I stopped breastfeeding)

:: Mint Medley
What it is: Similar to peppermint. Blend of peppermint and spearmint. It's a little milder than peppermint.
How I like it: Cold with stevia or hot with honey and whole raspberries. It sounds weird but it is amazing. My husband's friend told us about it. 
Special properties: Same as peppermint

:: Chamomile
What it is: Chamomile herb
How I like it: Hot
Special properties: Good for sleep. Sometimes I dilute it with water (3 parts water to 1 part tea) and put it in Cal's bottle when he is sick (but he thinks it is gross). I've heard it is also soothing on the skin -- haven't tried that. 

:: I Love Lemon
What it is: Lemon infusion with other spices
How I like it: Hot, but I'm intrigued to try it cold some time. I like to drink this when I am sick

Other random herbs

:: Barley -- Just infusing barley makes a sweet, nutty tea that I like to drink when I am sick. I drink it hot. 

:: Roses -- I infuse rose buds usually when I am working on a project and just want to drink tea all day. I drink it hot or cold, and I actually don't mind it without sweetener even when it is cold.

I'm sure I forgot a few favorites, but here is a basic summary of the teas I like. Do you have any favorites? 

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