09 October 2011

Tea made with flowers

Before my 24-hour plane ride to New York, I stopped by My Tea House in Sydney to say goodbye. The owner, Raymond, happened to have some new chrysanthemum tea, perfect for drinking before a long flight.

Chrysanthemum flowers are technically not a tea (it’s a tisane or herbal tea) and therefore have no caffeine. They look beautiful and have a rich aroma and taste (the scent is very pungent, almost like mustard seed but the taste is very smooth and slightly sweet). This particular flower is called blood or snow chrysanthemum and it grows at high-altitudes of more than 3,000 metres north of Tibet. It’s easy to make – brew at least five minutes in boiling water.

But it’s not the taste that makes me think I’m drinking the perfect cup of tea before my long flight. Health benefits of chrysanthemum tea include cooling the body temperature, relaxation, improving sinus congestion and detoxifying the blood. It is especially good for varicose veins, so I can only assume that it’s a good drink before a very long international flight. If only you could get it on board!

06 October 2011

Does white tea really prevent ageing?

As loose leaf tea surges in popularity, there’s been much talk of its health benefits. White tea (the least processed of the six different varieties) is supposedly high in antioxidants which attack those nasty free radicals that can cause premature ageing in our skin. So does white tea really make you younger?

In the US, cosmetic companies like Sephora sell cosmetics and fragrances with white tea, including everything from facial cleansers to eye cream to perfume. And there does seem to be some scientific evidence to back up its anti-ageing claims. A recent Kingston University (London) study seems to suggest that white tea does in fact help prevent wrinkles.

So what should you look out for when buying and drinking white tea? White tea is one of my favourites. When drinking, it has a rich, velvety texture with soft, sweet honey notes. Very decadent! And yes, the scent of fresh, white tea leaves is beautifully fragrant (hence its growing popularity as an ingredient in everything from scented candles to perfume). I recently had the privilege of smelling the aroma of a freshly opened bag of Silver Needle white tea, recently picked in China, at My Tea House (pictured above). I could have fallen into a deep sleep, I was that relaxed by it. Leaves with a strong, pungent scent and vibrant colour are always the best indicators of fresh, high-quality tea. And if you store white tea in a tin, it should keep fresh for a few months – just enough time to see if it actually keeps you looking young!