There is a lot of concern these days over caffeine and about drinking something that will help this ailment or that ailment or make your hair shinier, your skin glow, and other such beneficial effects. Several herbals have come to the forefront, mainly through the constant marketing of them as miracle cures. But some of these also taste good. Imagine that! I selected five that seem to be the most common.

Top to bottom: Rooibos, Honeybush, Chamomile, Yerba Mate, Peppermint (ETS images)

Top to bottom: Rooibos, Honeybush, Chamomile, Yerba Mate, Peppermint (ETS images)

1 Rooibos

Rooibos (Dutch for “Redbush”) is from the plant Aspalathus linearis. The leaves turn red after being processed and infuse a red liquid containing some beneficial ingredients including calcium, potassium, and iron, but caffeine-free. This herbal became popular as a substitute for true tea during World War II due to difficulty shipping tea from Asia to Europe, just as chicory became a substitute for coffee when bean prices spiked. When this infusion started getting introduced to the U.S. market, a vendor decided it would sell better if called “red tea.” They ended up adding to the already sizable name confusion out there. Plus, there was already a red tea (it’s what Asians call a fully oxidized tea – we call that a “black tea”).

2 Honeybush

Honeybush is not a “tea” but rather one of those herbals made from an entirely different plant than the tea bush (Camellia Sinensis). The plant is from the cyclopia species and 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.

3 Chamomile

Chamomile (aka “camomile”) is one of the most popular and well-known floral herbals. It is a flower similar in appearance to the daisy and in the same botanical family. Snow white wide, flat petals encircle a sunny yellow somewhat spherical center that is much larger than a daisy’s. This flower has been part of the herbalist’s “toolkit” since ancient Egyptian times, where it was used as a cure for malaria and was dedicated to the sun god, Ra. There is Roman chamomile and German chamomile (don’t let the names fool you, since they are grown elsewhere). However, Egyptian chamomile is widely noted as far more fragrant and flavorful than those. When buying chamomile, be sure to deal with a reputable vendor to assure you get true chamomile, not pineapple weed, which is sometimes substituted and can cause strong allergic reactions in hayfever sufferers (more so than from true chamomile).

4 Yerba Mate

Yerba mate is an herbal beverage that’s wildly popular in many countries in South America. It is traditionally drunk as a hot beverage that is served in a gourd called a “mate.” You sip it through a metal straw (a bombilla) that filters out the leaves and gritty bits. The flavor in its pure form can be a bit tough for the uninitiated to take but is still becoming increasingly popular in North America and elsewhere around the world. Added flavorings help many folks adjust to it. Plus, you can find it in a convenient bagged form.

5 Mint

Peppermint is a North American grown herb that contains no caffeine. Since it has a number of digestive aid properties, peppermint is often consumed after meals, including in a tisane or infusion. The oils in peppermint are said to stimulate the flow of secretions in the stomach and help relieve gas pains and calm your stomach. It’s use as a breath fresher is well-known. There are several brands, including Taylors of Harrogate, Twinings, and Harrison & Crosfield, plus blends like Moroccan Mint, or China White with Mint.

Choice galore for those of you ultra sensitive to caffeine or who just want something different. Enjoy!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

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