Chinese Herbal Tea for Winter
By Robert Wulforst
Depending on where you are, winter can be a brutal time of the year. Cold wind, heavy snow, and expensive heating bills can make you wish you could move closer to the Equator, where it’s almost the same temperature year round. Just recently, someone asked me what teas you can use help keep yourself warm in the winter and I wanted to share my answer with everyone.
Children love hot chocolate after playing in the snow, but what about us adults? Some drink alcohol, but for me, I drink black tea during the winter. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, black is the color of winter, because of its relation to cold and Water. You might expect winter to be white, because of the snow, except we attribute that color to Metal.
Oddly enough, black tea is considered “red” tea (Hóng Chá - 紅茶) in China. When the leaves are processed, they’re black in color, but when the tea is made, it’s more reddish. These are the “breakfast” teas, such as the ones labeled British or Irish. Pu Er tea (Pǔ ěr chá -普洱茶) would be considered a true “black” tea (Hēi Chá - 黑茶), but either types of tea are fine to use.
Black tea has a warming function in the body and relaxes the blood vessels to allow the blood to flow easier. When the body gets cold, it constricts the vessels and muscles preventing the blood to flow. As the vessels in the fingers, toes, ears, and your nose are smaller, this is why they get cold faster. In a severe case of over exposure, this is what causes frostbite.
In addition to the tea, you can also add different herbs to increase the warming function. Here’s a list of different ones you can pick up at your grocery store to add some spice to it:
Cinnamon stick (Ròu Guì - 肉桂) – This warms deeper into the body to stop chills.
Ginger (Shēng Jiāng - 生薑) – This warms the body closer to the skin and can help with coughing.
Almonds – Helps with watery cough.
Tangerine peel (Jú Pí - 桔皮) – If you can find tangerines, an orange peel works as well. You can add a piece or the zest to help the blood flow easier through the body. It helps to open some of the constriction in the body.
Cardamom (Bái Dòu Kòu - 白豆蔻) – Helps ease the flow of blood through the body and helps warms the digestive area.
Clove (Dīng Xiāng - 丁香) – Helps warm the middle of the body.
As you probably noticed, many of these ingredients are used in Chai, a popular spiced tea. However, you can mix and match the above ingredients to make your own winter tea based on your tastes. It is very easy to make, but it does take some time to prepare.
Winter Tea for one:
½ a stick of cinnamon
3 peeled slices of ginger
2 Clove pieces
2 pods of cardamom, slightly crushed
1 small slice of orange peel
1/4 cup of milk (whole)
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of sugar (white, brown, raw, etc.) to taste
You can also substitute ¼ a cup of sweetened condensed milk for milk and sugar. You can also add or remove herbs to suit your tastes. Try adding almonds, mint, or nutmeg!
These spices also work well in apple or pumpkin pies.
Boil 2 cups of water in pot and add the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, and orange.
Turn down the heat to low and let steep for 10 minutes.
Add 1 tea bag of Black tea (or 2 pinches of loose black tea) and steep for another 4 to 5 minutes.
Strain the mixture through a sieve to remove the herbs and add the liquid back to the pot.
Mix in milk and sugar and heat on low for another minute.
Remove and pour into a mug.
I hope this tea helps you keep warm during the winter. Let us know if you liked it!
About the author
Robert Wulforst, a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. The author of book "Root within the wind". See more at www.RuYiAcupuncture.com.