by Sally Kingsford-Smith
In Praise of Tea
For me, these simple words trigger an instant sense of calm and evoke wonderful memories of my grandmother’s kitchen. These words are an invitation to pause in the busy-ness of the day and connect in conversation over a steaming brew. Waiting with anticipation for the kettle to the boil, the clinking of china cups being set onto saucers, the delicate crunch of tea leaves being scooped from canister to tea pot, the distinctive sound of boiling hot water being poured onto leaves and the tantalizing aromas that twist from cup to nostrils, are all intrinsic to the sensual ritual of tea making.
Technically speaking tea is made from the Camellia sinensis plant. First consumed in China as far back as 2737 BC, tea is now a global drink. The green tea varieties consumed in Japan and China, the black tea that is so loved in Britain, and even the sweet, milky, heavily spiced chai blends from India, have Camellia sinensis as a base ingredient. In Morocco you will find mint added to richly sweetened green tea. In Tibet, butter is added to black tea, bringing an unexpectedly salty sweet experience.
If you need some convincing that tea is good for you, will find a massive volume of research to show that regular tea drinking can protect your skin, brain, immune system, lower blood pressure, reduce your risk of stroke, diabetes and cancer and reduce triglycerides and cholesterol levels (1-3). But why limit your tea drinking to one plant! There is a whole world of plants that can offer their sensational flavours and plant based goodness if you wish to broaden your tea repertoire.
“Pop the kettle on. Lets have a cup of tea.”
Herbal teas are more correctly known as tisanes and while many people use them purely as an enjoyable drink, they are also an integral part of traditional medicine practices across the globe. Incorporating herbals teas into your daily routine is such a lovely way to access the nourishing and health supporting properties of plants. Herbal teas are a safe and effective way for everybody to experience the beauty of herbal medicine. Steeping fresh or dried herbs flowers, leaves, seeds, roots or bark in hot water releases antioxidants, polyphenols, minerals and essential oils into the water to provide a multitude of therapeutic effects. The possibilities are almost endless:
Chamomile is possibly the best known herbal tea. In ancient Egypt use of chamomile is recorder on the Ebers papyrus dated 1550 BC. A sweetly scented cup of chamomile tea (Matricaria chamomilla) can calm and soothe the mind as well as the digestive tract (4)
Fennel, Aniseed and Caraway seeds are used traditionally for relieving indigestion and bloating after meal. Lavender tea may gently ease the way to a restful nights sleep (5).
Ginger has a long tradition of use as an aid for digestion and settles nausea. It has anti-inflammatory properties and can be used for fast relief of a headache. Preparing a cup of lemon, ginger and honey tea is soothing and nurturing for anyone suffering from for a coughs and colds.
Shitake mushrooms can be soaked, chopped and gently boiled to make a nourishing savoury tea that is delicious when you add a few drops of soy sauce. In Asia, Shitake is revered as food and medicine.
Creating your own tea ritual can provide a small oasis of calm in the midst of a hectic day. I encourage everyone to include at least one cup of tea into every day as a conscious act of self-care. A cup of tea can be a taste sensation, a sensual feast, powerful medicine, a calm refuge, or a few minutes of mindful meditation. Your tea ritual can be an intricate process involving specials cups, pots, and tea canisters. It could just as easily involve a campfire, a Billy and a handful of eucalyptus leaves. It could be as simple as slinging an herbal teabag into your favourite cup and sitting in the sun first thing in the morning. You may choose to retreat and drink your tea in solitude or to connect with friends and family over a cup of tea. However you prefer to take your tea, enjoy the opportunity to slow down, indulge the senses and relax.
1. Prasanth MI, Sivamaruthi BS, Chaiyasut C, Tencomnao T. A Review of the Role of Green Tea (Camellia sinensis) in Antiphotoaging, Stress Resistance, Neuroprotection, and Autophagy. Nutrients. 2019;11(2):474.
2. Khan N, Mukhtar H. Tea and health: studies in humans. Curr Pharm Des. 2013;19(34):6141-7.
3. Tang G-Y, Meng X, Gan R-Y, Zhao C-N, Liu Q, Feng Y-B, et al. Health Functions and Related Molecular Mechanisms of Tea Components: An Update Review. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(24):6196.
4. Srivastava JK, Shankar E, Gupta S. Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. Mol Med Report. 2010;3(6):895-901.
5. Miastkowska M, Kantyka T, Bielecka E, Kałucka U, Kamińska M, Kucharska M, et al. Enhanced Biological Activity of a Novel Preparation of Lavandula angustifolia Essential Oil. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland). 2021;26(9):2458.