I’m getting right into my brews, I am. Herbal brews, that is – I’ve never once had a “normal” tea, the type that you have with milk and sugar. I’ve never had a coffee either, for that matter; hot drinks just didn’t ever appeal to me when I was growing up and then, when I hit my twenties, I didn’t really see the point in starting just for the sake of it. But I reckon I’ve saved myself a small fortune in Starbucks bills and I’m quite glad that I’ve never felt the need for a caffeine fix to get me revved up in the morning. (I don’t fare well with caffeine, actually; Diet Coke used to make me sit and grind my teeth and don’t even ask what happened the time I took a “Pro Plus”!) No, I sailed through my teens without so much of a whiff of a grande latte, preferring the lurid call of things like Sunny Delight and Strawberry Ribena, and then I graduated straight onto the hard stuff. Double Archers (peach schnapps) with lemonade. Oh yes. Did anyone else have that as their late teens/early twenties tipple? Good God, it must have literally rotted my insides.
Anyway, herbal teas! I am atoning for my past beverage sins by consuming quality tea blends steeped to perfection in not-quite-boiling water. I have a whole armoury of teas: detox teas and teas to aid digestion, sleepy teas, wake-up teas, palate-cleansing teas and reviving teas. You name a tea situation and I have it covered. Different blends for every emotional state, hormonal imbalance, digestive complaint and of every stage of mental lethargy including a tea that simply makes me shut down, as though someone has pressed my “off button”. I have no idea whether they all do what they say, but I find comfort in the knowledge that they are there in the cupboard and that they are healthy and warming. I also now see the reason that many people drink hot drinks: every time you go off to make one, you get to take a ten-to-fifteen minute break. Clever! I had never fully appreciated this ploy until now.
But to cut a long story short: Neal’s Yard Remedies, purveyors of fantastic skincare products, have introduced a new herbal tea line. And very good tea it is too. I have a mug of the After Dinner Tea in my hand right this very second, and it’s delicious. A gentle blend of peppermint, fennel, liquorice and chamomile that isn’t overpowering – some herbal teas smell like manure, or incredibly cheesy feet, don’t they? – but that does what it says on the tin. Box, rather. It aids digestion – makes you feel less like a bloater when you’ve just eaten a panful of leftover Mexican chicken that was supposed to be for two people but only one person was home and you simply couldn’t bear to let any go to waste and then you dolloped some yoghurt on top too and sprinkled the whole thing with pickled jalapeños.
There are quite a few blends in the new Neal’s Yard line-up; my favourites are the After Dinner and the Refreshing and I also loved the Night Time version, which made me feel incredibly relaxed as I watched five episodes of The Good Wife back-to-back. (Just finished series 3.) Note: I tend to limit myself to two cups of herbal tea a day. I don’t know why – it just feels right to do so. I’m not sure what “official” guidelines there are on herbal tea consumption, or indeed whether such guidelines exist, but I know that the ‘erbs can be strong, so respect them.
Neal’s Yard’s organic teas are very affordable indeed – I have to admit that I was surprised. £2.99 for 18 individually wrapped sachets (great for travel) – find them online here.