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Herbing weirds tea - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
Herbing weirds tea
I've not had any caffeine for two weeks now. A combination of things made me decide to give it up for a while: sleeping badly (not so much having trouble getting to sleep as never actually feeling rested after sleep); persistent stomach pains which I figured probably wouldn't be worsened by giving up coffee; and a conversation with a colleague over breakfast (at a conference) where he claimed that my excessive coffee-drinking was part of some kind of subconscious death wish. Add to all this a vague probably-more-superstitious-than-anything feeling that it's worth 'detoxing' occasionally, or reminding myself that I can do without these things, & you've got a temporary caffeine fast.

To be honest, I haven't noticed many effects (apart from the hideous withdrawal headaches, which weren't as bad as last time I did this and went away after a couple of days). I do seem to be sleeping more, but part of that's because I've had coughs and colds (and tonsilitis!) for the whole of that time, and my sleep is more like a cold-ish flu-ish sleep -- total oblivion punctuated by occasional surreal and upsetting dreams. I do feel a bit more awake when I wake up, but I'm not sure how much of that is a placebo effect. The main effect, though, has been that I'm getting through the millions of boxes of herbal tea in the cupboard at a much faster rate than I have done for the years that they've been there. And when I say years, I mean it; some of these teas have moved house with me four times. The other week I decided a Herbal Tea Audit was in order, and took them all out of the cupboard and put them in order of best-before date. I wasn't surprised to find 2005s and 2004s in there, but the 2001s and 2000s were a bit worrying, and there's a packet of vanilla tea without a best-before date which I know for a fact I bought in Mauritius in 1998. It still tastes, um... okay.

Anyway, I've been drinking the herbal teas in date order (with the exception of the vanilla tea because that's actually just flavoured black tea, i.e. it's got caffeine in) and have so far finished off the ends of boxes of sage tea, mistletoe tea, lemon and ginger tea, 'Ayurvedic detox' tea, and I'm now onto 'Dr Stuart's Tranquility tea'. It's a fascinating voyage through a very limited spectrum of flavours (not enhanced by being a decade past their prime, but I know what these teas tasted like when they were new, too). Basically there are three types of herbal tea: stuff that tastes like spices (so I suppose that isn't really herbal tea at all, it's more spiced tea); stuff that tastes like leaves; and stuff that tastes like hibiscus and cardboard. I don't really bother with the third category at all any more; it all suffers from the Um Bongo effect (if you mix more than two fruits together in fruit juice, you end up with Um Bongo, whatever fruit you use; see also the 'brown effect', whereby if you mix more than two colours of paint together, you end up with brown, whatever the colours). Whether it's blackcurrant and vanilla, cranberry and orange, or anything with the word 'zester' in the name, it's 80% hibiscus and tastes like slightly fruity paper. It's the sort of taste you'd get if you ate the box that strepsils came in. The second category includes mistletoe, vervain, St John's Wort, lemon balm ... however interesting the herbs sound, the resulting tea invariably tastes like sucking hot water through a lawnmower bag. (Sage is the one exception to this rule: sage tea tastes like sage, all meaty and earthy, and has a wake-up kick to it like a cup of coffee.) The spicy teas are far more interesting: cinnamon! Liquorice! Cloves! Sweet-savoury Christmas-puddingy smells! Chai! Incense and Glastonbury and big floaty tie-dye scarves! (Not tasting of all those things, of course. Tea that tasted of Glastonbury would be horrible. Though I suppose some of the leafy-tasting teas -- notably, stinging nettle tea -- do actually taste of mud.)

Then there's mint tea, which doesn't fall into any of those categories, though I suppose it's closest to the leafy-tasting group; and I've seen a worrying trend for mint tea to be combined with other stuff. Chamomile and spearmint? Why waste perfectly good mint tea?

The one thing they all have in common, though, is that they all bear virtually no resemblance to tea.

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Comments
redbird From: redbird Date: November 23rd, 2008 01:33 am (UTC) (Link)
I think the logic behind chamomile and spearmint is that chamomile is supposed to be medicinal, and mint will hide the flavor of the chamomile.
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monkeyhands From: monkeyhands Date: November 23rd, 2008 11:46 am (UTC) (Link)
We have fresh mint growing in a pot in the kitchen, and it seems to have a really strong survival instinct despite massive neglect on my part. (I spend more time fussing over the basil and the chilli plant because they're both so terribly bright). Next time I come round I could bring some sprigs of fresh mint for actual proper minty mint tea.
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sea_bright From: sea_bright Date: November 23rd, 2008 03:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
I tend to find that any sort of fruity tea is massively improved by the addition of a spoonful of honey. I quite often hear people say that fruity tea smells lovely and tastes blah, but to me at least, adding honey makes it taste like it smells. Though I suppose this only helps if one likes sweetish drinks in the first place.
hairyears From: hairyears Date: November 23rd, 2008 04:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
So far, we have established three identifiable flavour groups:
  1. Slightly fruity paper;
  2. Sucking hot water through a lawnmower bag;
  3. Sweet-savoury Christmas-puddingy smells
I will eventually stop laughing at (2). Meanwhile, I think you missed out a vast swathe of bark-based herbal teas which, without exception, recall schoolday memories of well-chewed pencil.
vinaigrettegirl From: vinaigrettegirl Date: November 23rd, 2008 08:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh dear, I did need to laugh, thank you. And a second thank you to hairyears for the definitive flavour-group list.

I adore hibiscus and lemon, but it has to be heavy on the hibiscus, and have honey added. We, too, have a hideous collection of herbal muck which has moved houses with us, and I admire you for drinking any of it. Rooibos gives me what I am sure is an instant perforating ulcer whenever I drink it. But I have a cast-iron excuse for not giving up my one cup of coffee: I have chronically low BP, like sometimes stand-up-fall-over low BP, and if I don't kick start the metabolism in the morning I don't move at all.

'II swears that his giving up caffeine is why he is never ill. Except for now, when he has spent 5 of the last 7 days taken awa' tae his bed to sleep and weep for the sheer pity of his state, and sneeze, and ask for another hot water bottle. I blame the computer viruses, myself, which clearly crawled out of their boxen and zapped you both.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 25th, 2008 08:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'll swap your herbal tea for something else if you don't want it -- even the stuff that tastes cardboardy is basically just an excuse to drink lots of water. Will try adding honey too for some of the fruity things. Rooibos makes me go "hrrrrrhrrhrr", nasty stuff!

If I could drink one cup of coffee it'd probably be all right, it was the 12 or so in a day which were probably a bit overkill.

And poor 'II -- if it's the virusey thing that seems to be doing the rounds, it is miserable & lasts for ages (I still haven't shaken this accursed cough). If it's computer viruses that are the problem, though, then I probably just need to reinstall my operating system. Unfortunately at some point over the last 30 years I seem to have lost the manual and the install disks. :-/
keirf From: keirf Date: November 24th, 2008 08:59 am (UTC) (Link)
see also the 'brown effect', whereby if you mix more than two colours of paint together, you end up with brown, whatever the colours

You missed out one more universal colour - plasticine purple.
camellia_uk From: camellia_uk Date: November 25th, 2008 05:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gosh, I need to check LJ more often. I nearly missed a post about tea!!!

Dragonfly do a nice organic chai rooibos that's worth a try, or at the moment I'm using up some 'natural defence' (echinacea and pomegranate, more fruity than most fruit teas) from Holland and Barratt. And that twig-tea you sent me is really nice, and very low caffeine.

Thinking about it, I also have rather a large amount of teabags of various types. Perhaps I should bring some home at Christmas and we can have a tea party? Like a tupperware party, but with more tea and cake... :-)
j4 From: j4 Date: November 25th, 2008 07:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Unfortunately rooibos is one of the few things I really can't stand. That and ginseng -- they both make me go "hrrrrrrrhrrhrr". Echinacea and pomegranate sounds interesting (I used to have a nice echinacea and raspberry tea, might look for that again), will see if our H&B does it. Nowhere round here is quite as good as Elf Foods for tea though!

A tea party would be fun -- I will bring some of the more interesting teas home with me. :)

(I don't have a tea icon, so I am using my cake icon.)
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