Benefits of Bush teas
In cultures all over the world, tea has long played a role in social rituals.
In India, the production and consumption of chai, a tea brewed with spices and herbs, has become an art form, while in Japan, tea ceremonies are an integral cultural custom.
But, in Cayman, it is bush teas that have gained favour for their therapeutic properties.
Tea was believed to have originated in China where legend has it that in 2737BC, Emperor Shen Nung was sitting underneath a Camellia sinensis tree when a few leaves fluttered into water that his servant was boiling.
The Emperor, a herbalist, decided to taste the accidental infusion, sparking the beginning of a worldwide love affair with the hot drink.
Traders carried tea back from China to Europe, where due to high taxes it was a beverage initially only afforded by the upper and middle classes.
Later, the taxes were dropped and tea became a popular drink with all sectors of society.
Now in Britain, tea is drunk throughout the day and it is considered good manners to be offered a cup when visiting friends.
Tea is also served at social gatherings and consumed as a comforting drink during times of crises.
And that British institution of afternoon tea, usually served with sandwiches and cakes at 4pm, is a colonial custom that many hotels in the Caribbean have retained.
There are known to be many health benefits to drinking tea, with recent studies showing that in addition to helping prevent heart disease, three cups of tea a day can help reduce the risk of a stroke as well as being good for teeth.
In Cayman, the bush teas’ medicinal qualities make them popular and inexpensive remedies.
Island plants, many of which grow wild, are commonly brewed to make teas that have a variety of beneficial properties.
The most well-known include fever grass, cerasee, ginger, soursop leaf, lime leaf, leaf of life and mint.
The leaves of these plants, apart from ginger, can be picked and boiled right away or can be dried and stored.
Some older islanders caution against picking the leaves after dark, however, in the belief that the plants’ healing properties will be diminished during the night hours.
While many people can pick and brew bush tea leaves from their yard, a number of teas are produced commercially, conveniently packaged in tea bags and sold in Cayman’s shops and supermarkets.
If brewing fresh leaves at home, they should be picked and washed then boiled in water for around 10 minutes before being left to cool.
For maximum benefit, the tea should then be drunk immediately, sweetened with a little brown sugar or honey if desired.
Often enjoyed in Cayman at breakfast time, bush teas can be prepared at any time of the day as a remedy for ailments.
So, if you need a healthy drink or a remedy for all that ails you, tea, in its many varieties, is the perfect brew for you.