tisane: 6 posts

Blue Butterfly Pea Flower Tea

Imagine tea the color of lapis lazuli and sapphires. The intense hue of butterfly-pea blossoms is the subject of my recent FT column, The Allure of Blue Flower Tea. I describe a traditional potion popular throughout South East Asia and give several suggestions on sampling these flowers.

“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 George Town. After several days eating and drinking my way through this charming town on the Malaysian island of Penang, I knew that I had to say yes. George Town’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 organise the town’s sightseeing locations by the different delicacies one can taste around its neighbourhoods, from noodle soups and seafood curries to coconut-scented cakes and dim sum. Of course, I had to try the butterfly pea flower tea. To continue reading, please click here.

Previously I also wrote about another blue-tinted tisane, this time from Estonia: Blue Mallow Tea.

The tea in my photo is brewed from Thai butterfly pea flowers. The image is in no way retouched–that’s really how vibrant the color is!

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

White Acacia Tisane

Acacia blossoms mark the beginning of summer in Poltava. White clusters appear on craggy trees that ordinarily get noticed only because their powerful roots crack the pavement around the city. But come May, the streets are filled with their perfume of sweet orange and jasmine and the sidewalks are covered with a carpet of white pointy blossoms. “Now it’s really the end of spring,” remarks an elderly woman to no one in particular. She rearranges bunches of green onions and dill on a makeshift stall she set up near a bus stop and brushes off the fallen acacia flowers onto the pavement.

white acacia

I count spring not in months but in flowers. First come apricot blossoms and star magnolias. Then cherry blossoms make their brief entrance turning dreary Soviet-era street blocks into Impressionist etudes. Apples, lilacs, and viburnum move in successive waves, and finally it’s the time of acacias. In their heady perfume I smell the blistering heat of summer and dusty chestnut leaves.

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Estonian Blue Tea

The tea in my cup was bright blue. The friend who gave me a herbal mixture for what she called “Estonian Blue Lagoon Tea” promised lots of color, but I still didn’t expect a shade of aquamarine. The taste was refreshing and minty, perfect as both a cooling summer drink and a morning pick me up. I wondered what the famous devotee of herbal teas, Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, would make of it. What was this mysterious blue herb?

blue-mallow-tea

Poirot’s detective skills weren’t needed to discover that Estonian tea, or more properly tisane, since it contains no true tea leaves, is made of blue mallow or hollyhock. It’s the same plant that the Roman scholar Pliny recommended for so many ailments that it became known as an omnimorbia, or cure-all, while the feisty Japanese lady-in-waiting Sei Shonagon found its beautiful flowers most unsuitable if worn in frizzled hair. All of this only added to the appeal of my Estonian discovery, which I loved as much for its gorgeous color as its soft floral taste.

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Le Palais des Thes Jardin Tea Series

Le Palais des Thés has launched a collection of non-caffeinated teas based on fruit. Each blend includes pieces of dried fruit, herbs, and flowers.

jardin-fruitejardin-suspendu

Jardin Suspendu is fresh and acidic. It’s a blend of apple, orange & orange peel,  hibiscus flowers, rosehip peel, lemongrass, cornflower petals, sunflower petals, rose petals, mallow petals, and notes of mango and bergamot.

Jardin Tropical is sweet and tropical. It blends mango, pineapple, papaya and peach with rosehip peel, lemongrass, and cornflower petals.

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Bitter and Sweet Chamomile : Perfume and Tea Note

I am spending a summer afternoon at my grandmother’s in my favorite manner–stretched out on the grass, reading a book. Absentmindedly, my eyes glued to the page, I pick a small flower from a patch in front of me and bring it to my nose. In that instant, I forget about the book, and the only thing capturing my attention is the poignantly familiar aroma of chamomile, of bitter honey and green apple.

chamomile3

The reason chamomile, a simple, ubiquitous flower, puts me under its spell so quickly is that the herb used to be a favorite cure-all remedy in our household during my childhood. It was used in tisanes to help me sleep, lotions to soothe rashes or hair rinses. It’s the smell of summer in the countryside, and when my great-grandmother was alive, at this time of summer we picked baskets of chamomile and dried them in the shade. These days we don’t bother anymore, and my grandmother is happy just to buy the ready-made chamomile teas from the pharmacy. But since I have nothing but time and plenty of chamomile around me, I find an old wicker basket and gather a few handfuls of flowers. Spread out in a thin layer, they look like a polka dot extravaganza, and the scent intensified by the sun is unexpectedly lush.

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Victoria in Sugar Free: I do like sweets, and I like making them, including candy and Indian confections. The scents that accompany the process are part of the pleasure. June 24, 2019 at 5:32am

  • Victoria in Scent Diary : In Search of Lost Time: I do have some pleasant memories associated with the scent of cigarettes, but it has to occur in a very specific context–cold air, black coffee, a whisper of cigarette smoke… June 24, 2019 at 5:31am

  • Victoria in Scent of Cherries: I also didn’t like the way Dancing Roses dried down. Otherwise, it was very appealing. June 24, 2019 at 5:30am

  • Victoria in Sugar Free: Great choices, thank you! June 24, 2019 at 5:29am

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