National hot tea month: Drinking your way to diversity (Part 1)

tea pot, tea cup, tea press

January is national hot tea month, and in Northern Michigan, I think this is an appropriate time for it. The weather outside is cold, windy and snowy. With about 4-8 inches of snow in the last 24 hours, I started my morning with some hot tea.

Drinking tea is a great way to increase variety and diversity in your diet. Herbal tea blends especially have many different ingredients that you would probably never think to add to your diet. As I look at the ingredients for my morning tea, I see rose hips and rose petals along with lemongrass, licorice root, and hibiscus flowers. It is an orange tea, so it has orange peels, of course, and also spearmint leaves. It is delicious. It has at least two ingredients that I only get in tea, and two others that are rarely used in anything else but tea.

A January Challenge

Try making herbal teas, your main beverage in January and join the celebration of hot tea month. Not only does hot tea warm you up like hot cocoa or coffee, you can benefit from all the different vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols that these less frequently used tea plants and herbs can offer.

A quick look at the grocery store shelf will show you that tea has become quite popular in the last few years. There are many blends of black teas, green teas and herbal teas available. If you don’t like one flavor, you are sure to find another that suits your taste.

My favorite teas

tea pot and packets of tea

If tea is not your thing, you may not know where to start. Some people will add a little honey to their tea, but I usually prefer mine plain. Following are some of the favorite teas currently in my cupboard.

Stash licorice spice tea– a sweet spicy tea that my whole family loves.

Bigelow mint medley- a nice mix of peppermint and spearmint

Tazo wild sweet orange-delightful hot or cold. Sweet and orange flavored, this is another tea that the whole family enjoys.

Celestial seasonings lemon ginger tea- a nice ginger tea with some lemon that tones down the heat of the ginger just enough.

Celestial seasonings apple cinnamon tea- probably the favorite tea for my children every fall and winter. For them it’s like cinnamon flavored hot apple cider.

Meijer brand honey lemon ginseng greem tea- a sweet energizing tea that hits the spot on days that I need a little boost to keep going.

Chamomile tea- this is a single herb tea rather than a blend. My oldest daughter loves this tea. It is calming on the stomach and good quality chamomile tea has a subtle apple flavor that is nice. 

Mountain rose herbs fairytale blend- a nice tea for the family with many subtle flavors.  I think a relaxing bedtime story blend.

Of course there are tons of teas and tea blends out there. I can’t tolerate much caffeine, so I usually go for the herbal, but there are some really nice black and green teas to choose from as well.

Herbal tea DIY:

loose tea and tea press

Another option is to make your own tea using fresh and/or dry herbs and spices. Often you can buy herbs and spices for tea at a local health food store or herb shop. The garden is great for growing certain herbs when the weather permits. Once you find the herbs and blends that you like you can even buy bulk herbs cut for tea from several sources and make your own. We tend to order from Mountain Rose Herbs, but Frontier Co-op is another great source that many health food stores purchase from. I have also heard of San Francisco Herb Company, but have not bought from them before. I imagine a quick web search would turn up many other businesses selling bulk herbs.

Beat the Winter Blues Hot Herbal Tea 

  • 3 parts Spearmint
  • 1 part Rose hips
  • 1 part Elderberries
  • 1 part Bilberries
  • 1/2 part Star anise or Cinnamon
  • 1/4 part Lemon peel
  • Honey (optional)

This tea has a smokey mint flavor with a hint of fruit in the back ground.  It is best served with a little honey. The rose hips give this tea a vitamin C boost and the elderberries offer a little protection from the flu and other viruses. Don’t let it steep too long or the smokey star anise flavor takes over. If you don’t like the smokey flavor, the cinnamon is a perfect substitute.

If you have a favorite tea blend or your own mix that you love, share it with us in the comments section below.

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