As the weather gets colder and flu season gets into full swing, tea — especially of the herbal variety — becomes useful not just for its great taste, but also for its healing properties. It is important to understand your symptoms and pick the tea that will give you the most relief.
There is no “right” way to brew tea, but there are few methods that make it taste better. Loose tea is almost always better than bagged because it is much fresher. If you’re making your tea at home, let the tea steep in the water for ten minutes so that the taste is extra strong. Then, stir in some honey and cinnamon. This gives you a flavorful, half sweet half spicy cup. For herbal tea, it is fine to simply leave the tea in as you drink it. This strengthens the flavor and avoids an inconvenient cleanup process. The water used should be just before boiling point when the steeping begins. It is also best to avoid including milk with herbal tea in the case of illness, as it can make nasal congestion worse.
For instant cold relief, herbal, non-caffeinated tea is best. The ideal herbal tea is peppermint. It smells great, has a nice, gentle taste and opens up the airways in a way similar to cough drops. Best of all, it is reminiscent of Christmas, which is always comforting in the grind of the spring semester. Combining peppermint tea with ground cardamom will provide you with a lot of relief because of the added spice. Another good healing tea is Rooibos, or red tea. Originating in South Africa, it has a fairly mild taste.
For a stronger taste, go with Hibiscus or Lavender tea. Each of these has a nice floral smell, and it is said that Lavender eases stomach pains, relieves tension and aids sleeping. But if you are looking to fall asleep above all else, Chamomile is the classic choice.
Fortunately, the East Village is a very tea-rich neighborhood. There are a couple of good tea shops you can visit if you don’t feel like making it at home. On 771 Broadway there is Teavana, which has a very nice outdoor free sample stand. The Porto Rico Import Company at 40 St. Marks Place also has a good selection.
Best of all, there is McNulty’s Tea and Coffee Co. at 109 Christopher St. They have a great selection of herbal teas, including some of their own in-house blends. They also sell everything you need to make tea, from pots and kettles to tea balls and mugs. Whether you choose to make your own tea or pick it up from a store, there are many ways to get a soothing cup of tea. With all these options the cold season will glide by.
Email Anthony Schwab at [email protected]