Tea is probably humankind’s oldest beverage. Used in health remedies, compresses, scrying, energizing snacks, and even as money, there’s just nothing to beat a nice steaming cuppa on a winter’s day, summer’s day, or any time of day!
As a writer tea is staple: a mystical elixir divining one to a place where imagination is born … and, well, just plain waking up my darn arse in the morning, because let’s face it—I’m a freakin’ zombie without it!
Traditionally when one thinks of tea one picture’s the fragrant cured leaves of the Camellia Sinensis evergreen plant, however, tea can be an infusion of any organic matter that one desires to drink. Which brings me to a few unusual, and yet deliciously nutritious teas, I would love to share. Let’s start with lichen tea (because I’m likin’ it!):
Many lichens are edible, and some are poisonous, so if you decide to try lichen tea, then I suggest buying a book on edible plants specific to the area you live in. As a rule stay away from yellow lichens—they are most definitely poisonous, and here are a few others that are toxic: Wolf lichen, and most ground lichens. Peoples of different cultures across the planet have been eating lichens forever, lichen is high in nutrients, but you must cook or boil them before ingesting.
Oakmoss lichen (Evernia prunastri, pictured above) found on—you guessed it—oak trees, has a wonderful aroma and spicy, peppery taste, and when cooked has the flavor and consistency of a Japanese kelp salad. Oakmoss is popularly used as a base note in perfumes, if you have perfume allergies, then I advise you to stay away from this particular lichen.
Next is one of the most versatile plants in the world—Tillandsia usneoides! Most commonly called Spanish Moss (and it’s not a parasite—how dare you!); it hangs out in trees waving in balmy breezes. Science has proven a fact the natives have known for hundreds of years: it helps to slow the decline of skin cells—that’s right ladies—it’s anti-aging! To make a tea of Spanish Moss take a walk (if you live in swampy, tropical climes) and cull some from a tree, or off the ground, soak it in cool water (to get any bugs off), then heat it in water until the water turns a light tea color. SM has a delicate floral taste and smell, and too many health benefits to list, including using the tea with molasses added as a plant food! Yummy!
Here are some more uniquely delicious teas:
California white sage (Salvia apiana) is hard to find, but you can buy a smudge stick and use it as a tea instead of a negative cleansing wand.
Roasted black bean tea, there are many recipes for it online.
Roasted rice tea (also called roasted rice coffee)—blacken the rice in a pan, then place in a coffee filter and brew it in your coffee pot!
Oh yes, let’s not forget Kombucha Tea … It’s a freakin’ alien people! I’ve seen them with veins and I’ve seen them quiver—they are alive! And entirely dependent, apparently, on humans; there are no Kombucha found in the wild (don’t believe me? Do the research!). Personally, I do not drink KT, even though it is a tad tasty and supposedly good for you.
Some of the most expensive teas in the world range in price from $106 for twenty-five tea bags, to $23,000 for approximately 2/3rd’s of an ounce, and are either very old, picked on some esoteric day under esoteric instructions, or dusted with gold!
Every tea fanatic has their beloveds, and not all of my favorites are exotic: Black tea with rose petals always seems to brighten my mood, the good Earl Grey holds a special place in my heart, and the dragon’s pearls of Jasmine will slip down my throat with much grace … uh, truth be told I’m drinking it right now and a few minutes ago it wasn’t very graceful as I slurped it the wrong way and it spewed forth all over my darn computer! Gadzooks!
But, where does one find the most exceptional of these teas? I’ll drop a few names of places I’ve visited and ordered from:
Jin Patisserie: With such teas as Maître Fang, October Révélation, Mio Houjicha, and Toupet De Légumes (a tea flavored with tomato flower blossom, zucchini flowers, veggies, and red fruits!), your taste buds will explode! Furthermore, Jin Patisserie makes the best darn chocolates I’ve ever had—and I’ve been to many, many chocolatiers. http://www.jinpatisserie.com
Townshend’s Tea: Located in Oregon, I happily buy from them every month, prompt service, reasonably priced, and excellent quality. http://townshendstea.com
San Francisco has numerous old school tea shops. My advice is—if you love tea and you’re going on vacation somewhere you’ve never been before, take some time to browse online for tea shops, I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly enchanted by what you discover!
Author Nishi Serrano