Want to drink more herbal tea because of its healthful qualities, but don’t like the flavors? What to do? Read on to learn how to optimize your intake of these powerful beverages without having to hold your nose…
Have you ever stood in front of the herbal tea section of your local grocery store and been amazed at the variety of flavors on the shelves? How did you choose? How can you tell what hibiscus or nettle leaf tea tastes like and whether you’ll like it?
It can be a bit overwhelming, but it is worth including herbal tea in your daily repertoire of beverages. If nothing else, it will help increase your fluid intake which many people need help with.
Some teas are well known for their specific benefits – ginger tea can help reduce nausea, peppermint tea can help soothe indigestion, and turmeric and green teas are known for their antioxidant properties – while others are less well known. For example, horehound tea is considered good for colds and sore throats, while black cohosh is said to act as a natural anti-inflammatory and to relieve menopausal symptoms.
Regardless of which flavor you choose, there’s something so empowering about taking a few minutes out of the day to sit with your favorite cup of tea. The simple acts of deciding which pretty teacup to use, which magazine to flip through, and where to sit can be so restful and restorative. It’s just a few minutes out of the day for you to be kind and generous to yourself. Every Tuesday morning I have an “it’s time to make a meal plan” cup of tea as I work out which groceries I need to buy for the week. It isn’t my favorite thing to do but, for some reason, the tea makes the task less onerous.
But not everyone loves herbal teas and, even if you do, how many cups of tea a day do you want to drink? For all their good qualities, some herbal teas are hard to love no matter what else you add to the cup. Some taste bitter, “weird,” or just plain undrinkable to some people. It can be a struggle, especially if you don’t even like the tea and are drinking it only because of its healing benefits.
An option that can provide you with all the benefits of herbal tea without suffering through the flavor is to use the tea in your cooking.
I recently posted a recipe for green-tea oatmeal. I’ll be the first to admit that it looks a little daunting. After all, it’s bright green! The green color comes from matcha, which is the finely ground leaf of the tea plant. Matcha is a powerful antioxidant and many authorities recommend drinking between three and five cups a day. That might be achievable if you enjoy green tea, but I definitely do not. I would struggle to drink even one cup a day. But by adding one teaspoon of matcha to oatmeal, I get the benefits of the equivalent of ten cups of green tea. (Because matcha is made from the ground up leaves of the plant it is more concentrated than other green teas.)
You can use matcha powder in place of water or stock in many dishes. I’ve used it successfully in soups, smoothies, and once I used it in polenta – it gave the end result a slightly green color, which not everyone around the table appreciated. The flavor was completely unchanged and we all got a boost of antioxidants but, upon reflection, it would probably have been better to use it in a dish that wasn’t so pale! Perhaps I should have used ginger tea…
Ginger tea also is an antioxidant, but is perhaps better known for its anti-nausea properties. It can help improve digestion and increase your absorption of food – which in turn can help prevent belching and bloating. Ginger tea is also an anti-inflammatory, and can help improve blood circulation. Ginger tea works well as a partial replacement for stock in vegetable or bean soups.
Chamomile tea is so mild that it can replace the water or stock used in almost any dish, and you can still benefit from its reported anti-inflammatory and digestive qualities.
Peppermint tea is said to help you sleep better and to relieve stress. You can also drink it to help reduce bloating and gas, and to relieve constipation. Peppermint is easy to grow in pots in a cool shady place. I used peppermint tea as the poaching liquid for this recipe in place of the original wine and water. The tea gave a deliciously soft minty flavor, which worked well with the accompanying tzatziki sauce.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with using herbal teas in place of water and stock!
3 peppermint teabags to make 1 1/2 cups poaching liquid
1 sprig parsley or cilantro
6 lemon slices, plus 2 slices for optional garnish
12 oz wild caught salmon fillet, skin on
Tzatziki sauce (recipe follows)
1 cup organic yoghurt (non-dairy or dairy), plain, Greek-style
1 clove garlic
1/3 English cucumber
1 tsp lemon juice
6 - 8 fresh mint leaves
Salt and pepper
Make the poaching liquid by pouring 1 1/2 cups of boiling water over three bags of peppermint tea.
Steep the tea bags for ten minutes.
Discard the tea bags, and pour the tea into a deep skillet.
Add the parsley (or cilantro), six lemon slices, and a couple of pinches of salt to the skillet.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to bring the liquid to a simmer.
Add the salmon, skin side down. Be sure that the salmon is entirely covered with liquid. If necessary, add more water (or tea) to the pan.
Cover the skillet and simmer over a low heat for about 7 minutes, until the fish is just cooked through.
Transfer the fish to a plate, cover it, and store in the fridge for three hours until the fish is completely chilled.
While the fish is being chilled, make the tzatziki sauce, as follows.
Unless you are using Greek-style yoghurt, you'll need to drain as much liquid from the yoghurt as you can. You can do this easily: line a strainer with paper towel, and put the strainer over a bowl. Pour the yoghurt into the strainer and place it in the fridge to drain and thicken for 3 hours. If you are using Greek-style yoghurt, you can skip this step.
Peel, seed, and coarsely grate the cucumber.
Place the cucumber shreds in a strainer, place a small plate on top and then put a heavy weight on top of the plate to force the juice out of the cucumber. (A large can of tomatoes works well as the "heavy weight.") When the juice has stopped dripping, wrap the cucumber shreds in a double-layer of paper towel and give it a squeeze to get rid of the last few drops.
Finely chop the cucumber, mint, and garlic, and add to the yoghurt, then stir in the lemon juice and a couple of grinds of black pepper.
Taste, and add more lemon juice or salt as needed.
Store in the fridge until needed.
To serve, carefully remove the skin from the fillet, and scrape away any brown flesh. Garnish with lemon slices or sprigs of mint, and make salt, pepper, and lemon juice available. Top with a dollop of tzatziki sauce, or serve separately in a dish.
Although the chopping and preparation needed for this dish is minimal, you do need to allow enough time for the yoghurt and cucumber to drain and for the cooked salmon to chill. If you're running short of time, you can skip the draining steps, but the tzatziki sauce will be runnier (and a bit messier to eat).
The tzatziki sauce will keep in the fridge for two or three days, but you'll need to drain off any liquid that has seeped out and give the sauce a stir.
If you're making a large amount (say, for six servings), you can use a food processor to chop the cucumber, garlic, mint, lemon juice, and black pepper - whiz until smooth. For anything less than six servings, it's easier to do the chopping by hand. (Even a small food processor was too big to handle the chopping needed for two servings).
Nutrition label for make-ahead minty poached salmon
Take advantage of making this dish ahead of time – only a few minutes of chopping and cooking, and then you can do other things while the salmon chills in the fridge.
This dish is good in a main course salad, or when served as an appetizer with crackers.
When you use the poached salmon in a salad, it’s fun to repeat the flavor of the tea in the salad – for instance, if you used dandelion tea as the poaching liquid, add a few dandelion leaves to the salad.
You can use almost any herbal tea as the poaching liquid in this dish, so you can make subtle changes to the dish simply by changing the tea you use.
What’s good about this recipe
Depending on which herbal tea you use, you’ll get a dose of its benefits without the flavor.
For an added boost, you can use a mix of herbal teas to create a unique poaching liquid and get even more benefits.
Wild caught salmon is rich in healthy omega 3 fatty acids.
You can easily make the dish dairy free by using a non-dairy yoghurt such as soy yoghurt or any other unsweetened and unflavored non-dairy yoghurt.