Who doesn't like a cup of tea? It's comforting, warm, familiar, delicious and always seems to do you a power of good.
Tea is very English too. At least that's what we like to think but of course tea came originally from China.
It's a camellia bush with a wonderful Latin tag Camellia Sinensis and was first recorded in China 3000 years ago. It arrived in England in the 17th century and drinking the delicious infusion boomed in popularity, partly because it was seen as a medicinal substance and partly because Charles 2's Portuguese wife, Catherine of Braganza, loved it. The aristocrats soon followed her lead.
By the 1840s tea was popular with all classes in the UK and, rather inevitably, the Brits wanted to grow it for themselves as a valuable cash crop. The Chinese didn't. So the Brits, who never like to be thwarted, smuggled out a few cuttings and took them up into northern India, into Assam and later Ceylon (now, of course, Sri Lanka) where the great tea plantations of the British Empire thrived, and have continued to do so.
Now there are 1500 tea variations available in Britain – white teas, green teas, black and but the main growing areas remain the same: China and India although more recently the tea plant Camellia Sinensis is now being grown here in Britain.
Traditional tea isn’t of course the only tea that we like: herbal teas are making headway, particularly since ‘ordinary’ tea was found to be a little too stimulating. It contains a fair whack of caffeine and that's a good reason to love it when you need a pick-me-up. Other herbal teas offer other benefits and that’s why we at Little Herbs rather like them too. The favourites? Ginger (now my favourite breakfast digestive), rosemary (great for encouraging good blood flow, mint to soothe your stomach and freshen your breath, dandelion to keep your body’s water flowing well – and there are, of course, many, many more. Chamomile need a bit of calm, passionflower to ease anxiety (and help with menopausal flushes), echinacea to help fight off colds and flu, and why not give your brain function a boost with sage?
As you can tell, there are a bunch of different herbs with fantastic health benefits so it’s worth exploring far and wide. Fresh leaves are best but if you have to resort to dried (in winter of course) then try to ensure that they’re not too old because, like the rest of us, the older the herb the less power it has.
Here’s to a great cup of rosie lea, one for you and one for me, and plenty more to come. And maybe a nice biscuit alongside. Cheers!