by Alex Butova, the Witch of Herbs and Cats
Alexandra Butova is our columnist, journalist, and photographer, living in Riga, Latvia. She has has been with TopTropicals since Day One (2002), writing about magic plants, travel, and of course cats - from the CatNation she belongs to. Alex is in charge of TopTropicals.ru website.
Butterfly-pea flower tea commonly known as Blue Tea is a caffeine-free herbal tea, or tisane, beverage made from a decoction or infusion of the flower of the Clitoria plant...
Clitoria ternatea, also referred to as the butterfly-pea, blue-pea, aprajita, Cordofan pea or Asian pigeonwings, is a plant from the family Fabaceae and is commonly found throughout South East Asia. This beautiful, delicate vine is famous for its bizarre flowers that are imagined to have the shape of clitoris, hence the Latin name of the genus "Clitoria".
The bright blue petals from the flowers of the butterfly-pea plant have been used as an ingredient in herbal tea drinks throughout the region for centuries as well as used in cooking. The blue flower imparts its blue color when steeped in warm or hot water, leading it to being used as a dye, as well as to add color to various foods such as the rice dish nasi kerabu.
In Thailand and Vietnam the butterfly blue pea flower tea is commonly mixed with honey and lemon for a drink usually served after dinner, or a refreshment at hotels and spas, a preparation called nam dok anchan in Thai. The nam dok anchan drink has been described as being a typical local drink like chamomile tea is in other parts of the world. The tea is found in both hot and cold varieties, where the cold version is often mixed with honey, mint, cinnamon, passion fruit, and ginger.
For centuries the butterfly-pea flower tea was only known in South East Asia but in recent years, through the proliferation of travel shows and food blogging it has become known outside its area of origin. It is not readily available in supermarkets, primarily offered by specialty online retailers, although negotiations have been going on to introduce the tea in Whole Foods Market in the United States.
One of the most distinctive characteristics of butterfly pea flower tea, and indeed other drinks that use the butterfly-pea flower extract, is that it will change color when the pH balance changes. A deep blue tea will turn purple with the addition of lemon juice, turning a deeper shade of purple the more lemon juice is added. Mixed with fuchsia Roselle Hibiscus leaves the tea will turn a bright red color!
A popular use of the tea is in cocktails where the showmanship of the cocktail making incorporates the instantaneous color change in front of the patron that ordered the drink. Other uses included cocktails or punch bowls where the tea is frozen into ice cubes, causing the drink to change color as the ice cube dissolves leading to what has been labeled as a "mood ring cocktail".
Clitoria flowers or blue tea flowers are used for their supposed medicinal properties in Ayurveda.
Antioxidant properties: One of the benefits of drinking blue tea is that it has a lot of antioxidants. These powerful bio-compounds help the body fight free radicals which are toxic and cause premature aging. It is a good idea to detox the body once in a while with an antioxidant-rich drink like blue pea tea.
Anti-diabetic properties: A cup of blue butterfly tea taken in between meals will inhibit the intake of glucose from the diet and lower blood sugar. Antioxidants in the tea also help the body lower risk of infections, which diabetics are prone to, and it is also great for your heart health. According to a study, clitoria ternatea leaf is found to lower diabetes in rats. It obstructs glucose intake from food and is beneficial for curing type II diabetes.
For hair & skin: The antioxidants in a cup of blue tea are great for hair and skin. This tea also has many vitamins and minerals which keep your skin and hair looking great, as it keeps them from aging prematurely.
Energises and boosts brain activity: Blue pea is proven to be nootropic. It refreshes the brain and boosts its activity and function. This will keep you energised and feeling great.
Treats anxiety and depression: According to studies, blue tea can relieve stress and lower symptoms of anxiety disorder.
Magnifies beauty: Blue pea flower has anti-glycation properties, which is excellent for the skin and helps prevent skin aging. Furthermore, blue tea has some flavonoids which increase collagen origination, accelerating skin elasticity. It is also good for your hair as it contains anthocyanin, which increases blood flow in the scalp, strengthening hair follicles.
Lowers the risk of cancer: Blue pea flowers are a rich source of antioxidants. Antioxidants are known to minimise the damage to the cells of the body. The lesser the damage to cells, the lesser the risk of all types of cancer.
This vine is very much wanted by all tropical gardeners. It is an easy to grow winner that requires very little care. It will behave well in a pot with a small trellis or you can plant it in the ground over a large trellis or an arbor. It grows fast from seed, so you can have your little Blue Tea plantation in no time!