A Christmas Cup of Tea
It’s finally here – December 25, Christmas Day. You’ve unwrapped all the gifts, called your loved ones who are far and wide across the country, visited your Great Aunt Agnes and Uncle Henry, and prepared, served, and enjoyed a feast with your family. Evening has come, and all is quiet. It’s the perfect time to reflect on the season while sipping a warm cup of tea.
In herbal medicine, the act of preparing the tea can be just as therapeutic as the herbs within. The ritual of teamaking necessarily causes you to slow down, which can be a welcome respite in modern culture. This Christmas night, I invite you to partake in one of life’s simple pleasures. Follow this handy step-by-step guide to get the most out of the experience.
Teamaking, Step by step:
Start with fresh, cool, preferably filtered water. Tap water is fine, but make sure it is cold.
Fill a teakettle (a pot will do in a pinch) with the water, and heat on the stove until boiling. NOTE: water heated in the microwave does not fully aerate the water into a full boil. As a result, the tea has a ‘flat’ taste and thus the microwave is not recommended.
While the water is boiling, find your favorite teapot or teacup – the fancier the better on this hallowed evening.
Find a tea strainer for the herbs. If you don’t have a tea strainer, you can place the herbs into a coffee filter and tie it up so they don’t escape during steeping. Or, you can put the herbs directly in the boiled water and pour off most of the liquid after steeping is done.
Measure out your herbs – a list of festive offerings is provided at the end of this guide – and place in the tea strainer, etc.
Once the water is boiling, remove from heat and pour over your herbs into your pot/cup. While you do this, note the steam rising from the pot. Inhale the aroma of the herbs as they open up and receive the heat that will release their goodness. Let the herbs steep for about 15 minutes, and then strain out.
If you used a teapot pour the tea into the cup. Once again, inhale the aroma. Look at the liquid (in tea parlance it’s actually known as the ‘liquor’) and note the color. Lift the cup to your lips and slowly take a sip, noticing the warmth you are taking in. Take a moment to savor the taste, noting the subtle flavor notes of the herbs that you selected.
Now you have your cup of tea. Pick up a good book, talk with a friend, or quietly sit by the fireplace and the illuminated Christmas tree while you slowly enjoy what you have lovingly made. Have another cup if the mood calls you to do so.
Herbs for Christmas Day
Cinnamon is always a favorite sweet, warming herb to help you through a cold, winter’s night. It is also a circulatory stimulant, blood sugar regulator, mild digestive stimulant and astringent.
Combine cinnamon with ginger, also a warming herb. Ginger is great for calming an upset stomach, but note that it’s a good deal ‘hotter’ than cinnamon, so if you are sensitive to excessive heat, use sparingly.
Cardamom is a common herb included in chai tea, and is another aromatic, spicy herb. Therapeutically, cardamom calms stomach spasms, thus reducing intestinal gas/flatulence.
Dried orange peel adds a zesty, citrusy flavor also associated with the holiday season. The slight bitterness of the peel serves as a digestive aid, stimulating enzyme production.
For those who enjoy a bit of cooling versus warming in their tea, peppermint is a perennial holiday favorite. Calming to the mind as well as the stomach, peppermint provides a distinctive, tingly taste.
Whichever herbs you choose - even a store-bought holiday herbal blend is nice – be sure to take the time to enjoy the journey as much as the result!
Merry Christmas to all!
And if there's anything herbal or health-related on your mind this holiday, let us give you a gift --go to Ask The Herbalists!, where we answer your herbal questions for free.
Donna Koczaja, M.S., RH(AHG) graduated from Maryland University of Integrative Health (formerly Tai Sophia Institute) with a Master of Science in Therapeutic Herbalism and a Post-Master's Certificate in Clinical Herbalism. She earned Registered Herbalist status from the American Herbalists’ Guild in 2018. Originally educated as a mechanical engineer, she combines the rigor of her original scientific training with the traditional healing art of herbal medicine to partner with her clients to uncover the root cause of their underlying health issues. Also a Master Gardener since 2008, her primary interest is in inspiring others to improve their health and sense of wellbeing through the joys of gardening and the power of natural medicine.
Donna currently practices as the professional herbalist at the MUIH Natural Care Center (410-888-9048x6614) in Laurel, Maryland. Read more about her, what she does, and why she does it at www.greenhavenliving.com, or contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 240-353-8754.