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It’s tea-time, folks

Chai and chaiwallahs are an integral part of the cultural fabric of this country. Be it the IT parks in Bangalore, the film sets of Mumbai, or the deserts of Rajasthan, tea is a way of life in India. While tea in India is synonymous with a sweet, milky concoction, people are now embracing other variants of tea that stimulate, revitalise and invigorate. A few of the well-known varieties of tea include white tea, green tea, black tea, oolong tea (otherwise known as that Chinese tea served in Chinese restaurants) and herbal tea.

As has been well documented, green tea has been lauded for everything from speeding up metabolism, protecting against heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes, lowering blood pressure, helping prevent arthritis, to improving immunity. And rightly so, a few cups of green tea everyday will leave you feeling healthier and happier, more so in a day and age where constant activity seems to be the norm rather than the exception. The simple act of brewing a cup of tea and sipping on it is effective in soothing
frazzled nerves and releasing emotional tension. So the next time you find yourself reaching for your seventh cup of coffee or diet soda, try a cup of herbal tea instead.

For reasons both simple and serious, herbal tea is fast assuming legendary proportions in the world of beverages, thanks to its versatility. It is equally delicious, hot or cold, winter or summer, and morning, noon or night. Herbs have been used for thousands of years to support and maintain various health conditions. So, when drinking herbal tea, not only are you reducing your caffeine and sugar intake, you are also introducing many health benefits - known to originate from herbal tea - in the form of antioxidants, nutrients like calcium, magnesium and the like into your daily diet.

There’s one kind of organic herbal brew to fix every kind of malady. Right from boosting immunity to preventing ageing, herbal teas have got you covered. Organic tea, in particular, boasts of more pronounced, robust and cleaner flavours and aromas than its traditionally produced counterparts on account of being grown and processed without pesticides or artificial fertilisers. In other words, it tastes better and translates into healthier environmental outcomes.

The diet we choose to adopt in the coming decades will have dramatic ramifications not just for our health, but also for the planet. That’s why scientists and researchers are intensifying efforts to learn and incorporate what they can about ncient diets and ways of life before they disappear forever.

Regarded for thousands of years in the East as key to good health, happiness and wisdom, herbal tea could well be the answer to a more balanced and conscious way of living. While purists consider only green tea, black tea, white tea, oolong tea and pu-erh tea the real thing, boutique tea specialists are experimenting with clever infusions that not only taste delicious, but come with a generous dose of health benefits too.

The infusion of organically-grown flora, spices and fruit make for endless possibilities of mouth-watering goodness, with an exotic, harmonious and fragrant bouquet to delight the senses. India has long since understood the importance of marrying nature with food. Applying the same philosophy to teas makes it more accessible to people of all ages with demanding jobs and crazy schedules. A cup of tea with chamomile flower, fresh fennel seed and marshmallow root, for instance, helps keep stress at bay. Designed to relax the digestive system, I have found that it also relaxes the mind.

There’s a reason why organic herbal teas are all the rage. The many medicinal qualities they are imbrued with makes them a natural choice for everything from getting rid of a cold, to fighting infection and nausea. As a warm spice, ginger is famously known to relieve rheumatic aches and pains by stimulating blood circulation, while peppermint has been used for centuries to aid in digestion.

Luxury of choices
With flavours ranging from chamomile and marshmallow root, to cinnamon and ginger, and rose and lavender, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to teas. For the sophisticates and gourmands out there, you’ll be happy to hear that tea can be paired with just about any dish under the sun. The right brew will complement every dish, be it Quattro Formaggi pizza or Chinese stir-fried noodles. Wash down that masala omelette with a cup of tea comprising nettle leaf and fennel seed. It purifies the blood and soothes the liver.

Had an extra helping or two of palak paneer or butter chicken? Don’t worry. Just sip on a cup of tea containing aniseed, coriander and cardamom. It helps digestion and prevents bloating and other stomach-related woes. Finding it hard to wake up in the morning? Try a cup of tea with spicy flashes of cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. Guaranteed to awaken your senses, it is the perfect accompaniment to a healthy breakfast of oats or granola with lots of fresh fruit.

For thousands of years in every culture, herbal tea has been used to balance and heal the body. Perhaps it’s time to reintroduce ancient wisdom into our modern lives. Spirituality goes just as well with herbal tea as it does with kulhar chai.