When I started, we didn’t sell herbs or flavored teas, says Sebastian Beckwith, who founded In Pursuit of Tea in 1999. In less than a year, the fine tea supplier offered products ranging from single-origin chamomile to traditional mistletoe-based herbal blends from Bhutan.

Although these drinks are often marketed as herbal teas, the term is misused. White, green, oolong, black or puerh tea is made from the leaves of the caffeine plant Camellia sinensis. Herbal teas, also known as infusions, are parts of other plants that are soaked in water to make flavored hot drinks, and most are caffeine-free.

Meg Tartasky, director of sales and imports for MEM Tea in Massachusetts, has seen an increase in herbal tea consumption since the pandemic began.

People come here in droves for various reasons, looking for alternatives to caffeine, soda and wine, or potential therapeutic properties, she says.

The flowers, bark and heart-shaped leaves of linden are pale yellow and have a flavour similar to wild chamomile / Getty

Tartasky thinks the Tysans have emotional benefits, too.

Many of us languish in feelings of doubt, loss and despair, or a combination of all three, she says. Out of this chaos comes the need for stability, control, or the establishment of rituals that bring us joy and tearfulness…. Without wanting to sound too trite, drinking a cup of tea is a warm hug you can offer yourself.

 

The herbal tea is old. The Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese and Indians made herbal drinks, both for pleasure and as natural remedies. Today, the FDA considers most herbal teas safe, but does not support or regulate their use for medical purposes or health claims.

When purchasing herbal teas, look for reputable suppliers and buy quality or organic products whenever possible. It’s easy to spin herbal tea. Unlike green tea, which requires a specific water temperature and brewing time to avoid an overly astringent infusion, you can simply add boiling water and let it steep for 4 to 5 minutes.

To find out which herbal tea is best for your cup, consider the five main categories of herbal tea: Flowers, roots, mushrooms and fruits, but also herbs, leaves, shrubs and trees.

Flowers

Chamomile

These dried flowers are picked on daisies of the daisy family (Asteraceae), whether German (Chamomilla recutita) or Roman (Chamaemelum nobile). Chamomile is one of the oldest and most widely used plants in the world. It dates back to ancient Egypt. It tastes like apple, fig and honey. Health claims would include mild sedative and anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants.

Hibiscus

Tea made from the dried calyx (edible husk) of the flower (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is grown in parts of continental Africa and tropical regions around the world and is also known as sourdough, sorrel and roselle. Hibiscus herbal tea has a sweet and pungent flavor, like tart cranberries, with a deep red hue. It is a particularly popular drink in Jamaica during the December holidays. It is said to contain vitamin C and antioxidants, while lowering blood pressure and promoting liver health.

Hibiscus tea has a sweet and sour taste, like cranberry pie/Getty

Chrysanthemum

The dried flowers of Chrysanthemum morifolium or Chrysanthemum indicum, a common species in Asia, have been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The taste is floral and reminiscent of chamomile and citrus. Chrysanthemum herb tea is considered to be rich in antioxidants and can lower blood pressure. It is even used as a hangover remedy.

Echinacea

Echinacea, also called umbellifer, belongs to the daisy family. It includes several species of flowering plants native to North America, but only three are consumed in teas and herbal teas. The Indians infected both the root and the flower and used the drink as medicine. It has a floral and sweet taste with a tingling effect, often mixed with other herbs. Some believe it reduces inflammation and increases immunity.

Roots

Ginger

Made from the dried or fresh roots of a flowering plant (Zingiber officinale) native to tropical Asia, ginger tea has a spicy flavor and is slightly sweet. The spicy spice is derived from a chemical compound called ginger. Health claims focus on fighting inflammation and improving digestion.

Turmeric

This root belongs to the Zingiberaceae family and is related to ginger. It is native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. It has a warm, earthy, slightly bitter and peppery taste and has many culinary uses. Some believe it supports liver function and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Ginseng

Ginseng is harvested in North America (Panax quinquefolius) and Asia (Panax ginseng). One of the oldest ingredients in TCM, referring to dates of use in the text of 196 AD. This perennial forest plant has a slow growth rate, and under pressure from American collectors, the plant has been classified as extinct. It tastes bitter, spicy and earthy. It is believed to increase energy, fight inflammation and cardiovascular disease, and have antioxidant and cell-protective properties.

Mushrooms and fruit

Reishi

This fungus (Ganoderma lucidum) is known as the mushroom of immortality and has been a staple of Chinese medicine for 2,000 years. It tastes earthy with a hint of bitterness. Scientists are exploring its potential to treat cancer and boost immunity. It is said to be rich in vitamin D and B-complex vitamins, minerals such as potassium and calcium, and antioxidants.

Rosehips

These red and fleshy fruits come from the lower petals of roses, usually harvested from wild species (canina rosa and rosa rugosa). They grow in Asia, Europe and North Africa and have a delicate, floral, sweet and sour taste, similar to hibiscus. They are thought to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immunostimulatory properties.

Types of mushrooms in herbal teas and infusions / Getty

Elderberry

Black elderberry is obtained from the flower of Sambucus Canadensis, a plant native to North America, and can be found in syrup and lozenges. Hippocrates called the elderberry a medicinal chestnut, and modern drinkers are drawn to its vitamin C, which boosts immunity. It is rich and juicy with honeydew melon, flowers and notes of anise.

Grasses, leaves, bushes and trees

Lemongrass

The dried leaves or stems of a tropical perennial plant (Cymbopogon) native to Asia are often used in foods and beverages and in lemongrass candles. It has a pungent and spicy aroma with lemony and floral notes. Health claims include blood pressure reduction, digestive aid and antioxidant content.

Peppermint / Mint

The members of the mint family have a long tradition in Europe and the Middle East. Archaeologists have discovered twigs in Egyptian tombs. This tasty herb tastes like salads, drinks and gelatines. The high menthol content of peppermint and spearmint provides a fresh feeling. It is said to contain vitamin C, which is said to help with digestion and can aid digestion.

Lemongrass tea and herbal teas have a strong herbaceous flavour with lemon and floral notes / Getty

Rooibos

This tea is made from the needles of a native South African wild bush from the Cederberg Mountains, the Aspalatus linearis bush. While red tea with rooibos is more common in the United States, there are also green tea and burgers with rooibos. The red version has a taste of berries, vanilla, caramel and cedar and is said to be rich in vitamin C and antioxidants.

Linden

The pale yellow flowers, bark and heart-shaped leaves of the linden tree (genus Tilia), native to Asia, Europe and North America, have long been used as a beneficial tonic. Its strong taste is similar to that of wild chamomile. Among its benefits, it is said to be a sleep aid, and some say it strengthens the immune system and improves digestion.

Lemon verbena.

This woody shrub (Aloysia citrodora), native to South America, is cultivated worldwide for its fragrant leaves. Lemon has a fresh taste and is said to contain antioxidants and reduce inflammation.

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