The best herbal teas
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Herbal tea, you heartbreaker. Always full of such promise on the packet yet so disappointing in the cup. What’s the point of scorching your mouth, I thought, when you’re not even getting a caffeine buzz? But lately the pursuit of the perfect night’s sleep has forced me to rethink. And the world is blossoming with great-tasting infusions that don’t interfere with your 40 winks.
Rare Tea Company, which supplies Noma and Claridge’s, upped its caffeine-free range when founder Henrietta Lovell discovered even she could no longer handle her evening cup of oolong. “We have seen a significant growth in demand for herbal teas in the past five years,” she says. Lovell’s pride and joy is a koseret tea (£4.99 for 10g) grown in the cloud forests of Ethiopia by the Andinet Spice Co-operative, which promotes female financial empowerment and local biodiversity. A relation of verbena and oregano, koseret tastes like a cross between garden mint, lemon thyme and sage.
Rare Tea Company also does a ginger and lemongrass blend (£7.99 for 30g) from India and Sri Lanka; and a soothing lemon blend made from Sri Lankan lemongrass and Malawian lemon verbena (£7.99 for 25g). There are also limited-edition blossom teas including a perfumed Spanish almond blossom one (£35.99 for 20g) with notes of crystallised honey, parma violets, white marzipan and apple seed.
Bird & Blend Tea makes herbal tea blends that are as pretty as pot-pourri (they’re also certified B Corp, carbon-neutral and significant donors to charity). Give your immune system a boost with its bestselling Cold Weather Warrior (£3.50 for 20g), a reviving blend of aniseed, chilli, peppermint, echinacea and eucalyptus. Or take five with Deckchair Dreaming (£3.50 for 20g), a blend of chamomile flowers, apple pieces, rosehip, linden blossom, hibiscus and orange peel that’s wonderfully zesty.
Kate Moss’s wellbeing brand Cosmoss taps the trend for functional teas – her Dawn tea, with red hibiscus, is designed as a mood-booster; Dusk tea, with butterfly pea flower, promises restful sleep (both £20 for 20 bags).
The Newt hotel in Somerset blends herbal teas from plants in its beautiful gardens, according to recipes created by head beekeeper Paula Carnell and Franciska Lang, the hotel’s “head of wellbeing”. The Newt’s dandelion, cleaver and rose blend (£6.95 for 22.5g) is designed to give the system a “spring clean”; lemon balm, lavender and rosemary (£6.95 for 30g) promotes calm and mental clarity. The Newt also stocks the organic amber Honeybush tea (£8 for 25 bags) from Babylonstoren, its sister estate in South Africa – it’s mellow and slightly sweet.
I am also a recent convert to Japanese buckwheat tea – nutty and malty, it offers similar benefits to green tea but without the caffeine. “It’s served in Japan’s soba restaurants as an alternative to water,” says Lovina Uittenbroek, the founder of T Buckwheat Tea (£9.99 for 15 bags). “It pairs well with Japanese food, salads and dessert-y things and is nice to have cold in summer.” Comforting and refreshing all at once. Who needs caffeine?