Butterfly Pea Flower Tea : Blue Tisane

“Would you like to try butterfly pea flower tea?” asked a friend as we were getting ready to order drinks at a small restaurant in Georgetown. After several days eating and drinking through this charming town on the Malaysian island of Penang, I already knew that I was in for a treat. Georgetown’s legacy as a trading entrepôt is its blend of cultures—Malay, Chinese, Indian—that results in a diverse and vibrant cuisine. A standard hotel map will organize the town’s sightseeing locations by the different delicacies one can taste around its neighborhoods, from noodle soups and seafood curries to coconut-scented cakes and dim sum. Of course, I had to try the butterfly pea flower tea.

When the tea came, it was the color of sapphire, an intense, vivid blue. Crushed lemongrass stalks gave it a heady floral and citrusy perfume. As my friend explained, butterfly pea flowers have a mild earthy taste, and the tea—or more properly, tisane—is mixed with other ingredients to give it a bolder flavor, such as fragrant herbs and spices. The color, however, is so striking that it’s a beloved ingredient in drinks, cakes and even savory dishes such as nasi kerabu, rice with coconut stewed chicken and a variety of accompaniments. Local lore has it that butterfly pea flower tisane is rejuvenating and toning. I found it mesmerizing.

While outside of Southeast Asia butterfly pea flowers are still an exotic ingredient, tea boutiques and specialty stores are starting to feature them in different forms. In Malaysia, the cobalt blue blossoms are usually used fresh from the vine, but they’re just as excellent and richly colored when dried.

A teaspoon of dried flowers per each cup of hot water is enough to turn it azure, while a couple of buds will give it a delicate hue. Ginger, cinnamon and honey will make the tisane warming and perfect for cold winter days, while a touch of passionfruit juice and lemon zest lend a tropical flair. Adding an acidic ingredient like tart fruit or citrus juice will change the pH balance and transform the color of the infusion into purple and shades of pink. Although less intensely colored, blue mallow flowers and cornflowers may be substituted.

One of the most interesting blends with butterfly pea flowers is Yuzu Indigo from the venerable French tea purveyor Mariage Frères. Green tea leaves are blended with blue flowers in sufficient proportion to give the liquor a tint of Persian turquoise, while yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit that smells of clementine and pine resin, sets the bright top notes. From color to taste, it’s a complete sensory experience and an instant boost.

Have you tried this blue tea? What refreshing summer drinks do you like?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin



  • Karen A: What fun! It is interesting how few actual blue foods or drinks there are. This sounds like a treat! June 12, 2023 at 8:15am Reply

    • Victoria: The first time I saw, I loved the color. Blue-colored rice served with yellow and red sauces also looks beautiful. June 14, 2023 at 3:13am Reply

  • Allison C: I came across butterfly pea flower tea at the cafe at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston. I loved it so much I bougt some tea online. It didn’t taste exactly the same so I realized that the cafe’s tea had extra ingredients and I have to go back and find out exactly how they made it! In the mean time I’ve put in a drop of almond extract and it’s quite good. June 12, 2023 at 9:10am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, it allows for much experimentation. You can play with different flavors easily. June 14, 2023 at 3:12am Reply

  • Marina Sofia: Wow, this is beautiful!
    My go-to summer drink is mugicha in a large jug from the fridge, with ice-cubes. Most refreshing thing known to humans! But this blue one might tempt me away from my favourite… June 12, 2023 at 9:13am Reply

    • Victoria: I also like mugicha. Another grain tea I like is roasted corn tea. I get roasted corn kernels from a Korean store and make it pretty much the same way as mugicha. June 14, 2023 at 3:11am Reply

  • Emily: There’s a fantastic Malaysian restaurant in NYC, Kopitiam, which has a rice dessert colored a rich blue from butterfly pea flower blossoms. I’ve also had Mariage Frères’ delightful blue-tinged Earl Grey. Suddenly seems imperative to try Yuzu Indigo now. June 12, 2023 at 9:17am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s one of my favorite blends. June 14, 2023 at 3:11am Reply

  • Marsi: Empress 108 is a purple gin made in Vancouver, BC that lists bitterly pea flower among its botanicals. When you make a French 75 with it, you end up with a beautiful fuchsia cocktail! June 12, 2023 at 9:36am Reply

    • Victoria: I can imagine how pretty it looks! June 14, 2023 at 3:10am Reply

  • Carol Melancon: I’m growing a Blue Butterfly Pea in Baton Rouge, Louisiana right this moment. The flowers are beautiful on the vine and if you let them mature, the peas are edible too. June 12, 2023 at 9:41am Reply

    • Carol Melancon: Forgot to mention that I ordered mine from Top Tropicals in Florida. I have several interesting plants from them including ylang-ylang and Michelia champaca. June 12, 2023 at 9:47am Reply

    • Victoria: I went online right away to see if I can find seeds. I also want to plant it. June 14, 2023 at 3:10am Reply

  • Shivawoman: I love butterfly pea flower and mix it with other botanicals to add flavor. The color is lovely! A typical drink here is to mix with elderberries and flowers. It deepens the hue! June 12, 2023 at 12:30pm Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, that would taste very good. I have to try it. June 14, 2023 at 3:09am Reply

  • Connie Hill: I got curious about tisane when I watched Hercule Poirot episodes, it’s all he drank! It is a very unique herbaceous tea, but mine is not blue 🙁 so I will keep looking. June 12, 2023 at 1:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: Tisane can be made from any herb or flower, but what Poirot drank was a linden flower tisane. June 14, 2023 at 3:09am Reply

  • Mazlifa M: I hope you also had the Pulut Tetai, a dessert made with glutinous rice (pulut) laced with coconut milk and a lovely light tinge of Butterfly Pea Flower, must be eaten with Kaya, a caramelised coconut and brown sugar infused with Pandan leaves jam. June 12, 2023 at 7:19pm Reply

    • Victoria: I like pulut taitai a lot! Such a nice combination. June 14, 2023 at 3:08am Reply

  • OperaFan: I received a small packet of the dried flowers from a relative several years ago while in Taiwan and used it only once. The color was beautiful and flavor was very delicate. Now that I know to add other flavors I will start experimenting.
    I didn’t know what they were then so I’m very glad for your post on the subject. Thank you. a:) June 13, 2023 at 9:49am Reply

    • Victoria: The flavor of the dried flowers is quite mild, so it helps to add other ingredients. Of course, if you add anything acidic, the color will change. This in itself is fun to observe. June 14, 2023 at 3:08am Reply

  • Chris Hugh: I made a butterfly pea/saffron tisane today. It was green-blue like the gemstone alexandrite. June 21, 2023 at 3:54am Reply

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