A few years ago, in a tea store in Chicago, Illinois, I had a honeybush adventure. The aftermath is still with me now, haunting my dreams and reminding me of how much I’ve learned since then.
The tea store was in a shopping center. Hubby and I were in Chicago to visit friends and couldn’t resist a bit of shopping while there. Yes, there are stores where we live, but, hey, it was Chicago! I had lived there once upon a time. Life’s path took me away. This return visit was to have a little “face time” with a couple of hubby’s friends I had only spoken with on the phone since hubby became “hubby.”
While perusing some of the wares in one of the stores in the shopping center (everything was indoors, not like a strip mall where the entrances are outside), a most heavenly aroma wafted our way. “Sniff, sniff” my little nose went. Ah! Vanilla! Awhile back, hubby and I had fallen in love with a black tea flavored with vanilla but couldn’t get anymore. We were, therefore, on the hunt for a similar tea. This aroma certainly smelled like that vanilla-flavored tea. Could it be?
I tugged hubby’s arm and said we had to check this out. We went next door to the tea shop and sniffed around for the source of the smell. It was coming from a particular bin (since then I have learned that tea stores storing their teas in open bins are a no-no since air is one of the enemies of tea). I asked what the tea was, and the store employee (who was one of the owners) said it was “Honeybush.” They had some steeped and gave me a small cupful to try. It was quite tasty and vanilla-ish, although not quite like the black vanilla tea we were seeking. We bought about a half-pound bag.
I have since learned that honeybush is not a “tea.” It is one of those herbals made from an entirely different plant than the tea bush (Camellia Sinensis) but is often called “tea.” I had a cup or two of this herbal when getting back home but have since set it aside in favor of true teas. I am also more aware that tea store employees (whether they are also owners or not) do not always tell you when something is not tea. They know that customers are wanting tea and so have labeled a lot of things with that name. You need to know the difference so you can shop wisely.
So, what is honeybush? The plant is from the cyclopia species. It grows in South Africa in the rugged, inaccessible areas of the mountains near the Cape. The flowers and leaves, which are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, have been used to make infusions for centuries by natives of the area as a relief for various ailments. The infusion is caffeine-free, a great attraction for people who want to avoid anything stimulating and another great reason not to call it “tea.” The flavor is usually sweet and smooth, but it also lends itself to added flavorings, and not just the vanilla that had enticed me years ago. Try some Twinings Herbal Honeybush with Mandarin and Orange (the description calls it “tea,” but never fear, it isn’t, so it’s caffeine-free).
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