The prickly pear cactus flourishes in the desert-like climates of Mexico, South America and some of the southern states of the USA.
During early spring to summer, the cactus blossoms and the early stages of its fruit can be seen. It is not until September that this fruit should be picked. Though, sometimes a pain to harvest – the spines can cause irritation for days once embedded in human skin – both the pads and the fruit of the cactus are edible.
It can be eaten raw, but the true flavour of the fruit comes alive when made into candy, jelly, juice, wine or – as in teALCHEMY’s case – dried.
The prickly pear has been shown to have a high supply of amino acids, fibre, B vitamins and iron. In traditional medicine, it has been used to treat diabetes, stomach issues, cuts, bruises, sunburn, windburn, constipation and cold-like symptoms.
According to the president of the Group to Promote Education and Sustainable Development, Margarita Barney de Cruz, the plant was used in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries as a waterproof paint for homes, churches and convents.
At teALCHEMY, we combine this versatile fruit with a sweet South African rooibos to create our Rooibos Pearadisio. This sweet, caffeine free tea will pair (pun intended) well with scones, cakes and desserts. You could even make an ice cream out of it!
Rooibos tea is full of polyphenols, an antioxidant with powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-mutagenic abilities. It has also been shown to improve bone and heart health and even lower blood pressure. Although not a cure, rooibos can also be an aide in the prevention of kidney stones.
The combined powers of the prickly pear and rooibos tea make for a great healthy cocktail full of polyphenols, and other rare minerals that work together to create a more robust immune system.
The tradition of afternoon tea, albeit being the most renowned of English customs, is in fact relatively new. Tea was popularized in England by King Charles II and his wife, Catherine de Braganza, in the 1660’s. The birth of afternoon tea however, did not come about for another 100 years.
In 1840, Ana, the Seventh Duchess of Bedford would get hungry by around 4 o’clock every day. Since supper in her household was served at a rather late 8:00pm, she decided she could not go so long without food.
She began to ask that a tray of tea, bread, butter and cakes be brought to her room each day between four and five. This became a daily ritual of hers and she would eventually start inviting friends of hers to join.
Following Anna’s lead, many upper-class women began conducting similar ceremonies. Donning long gowns, gloves and hats, they would gather in their drawing rooms as tea was served.
Today, the traditional afternoon tea of small triangular sandwiches, scones with cream, jams and cakes is less popular.
Most households will serve tea in the afternoon in large mugs with nothing more than some biscuits. Sticking to tradition, the best establishments that have afternoon tea are usually high class restaurants and hotels where the full assortment of goodies are provided.
I find instructions on making a good cup of tea hard to find.
How exactly do you boil your waters for tea?
Here’s a simplified version on how to make the perfect cup of tea.
1) If you’re using tap water, make sure to let the water run a little, then fill up your teapot. Using cold water makes a better cup, plain and simple.
2) If you have distilled water, use it from time to time to keep your kettle clean and to flush out your system as well.
3) If you have filtered water, well then you already know what to do.
However, the green teas are a bit more delicate and generally you should let the boiled water cool down a few notches before you put it over your greens.
Here’s how we ‘brew it,’ in order:
Oolong – if your water has boiled, wait few minutes before you steep it (87 degrees [celsius] vs. 100)
White – if your water has boiled, wait 3-4 minutes (80 degrees)
Green – wait 4-5 minutes after water has boiled to pour over your green teas (75-79 degrees)
Any delicate green teas, ceremonial teas, or other specialty teas should probably be brewed at 70 degrees celsius or so.
Meaning, unless you have a kettle that brews at the temperature of your choice, best wait 5-10 minutes before you pour it into your first flush or other teas.
For a more comprehensive look on how to brew teas, go to our tea brewing guide to learn more about steeping times & more.
If you want to get all Jamie Oliver about it, click here to get British-ed up.
Irradiated vs. Organic Teas: What’s the Difference & Why Should You Care?
The friendly-looking logo on our featured image is what irradiation looks like.
Irradiation is a word few of us are familiar with, yet it affects nearly all of us directly or indirectly. We eat irradiated food all the time and don’t even know it.
Irradiation is a process whereby Gamma rays are passed through foods to make them appear more colorful/vibrant and is called ‘ionizing radiation.’ Gamma irradiation was introduced to develop a new processing method for brighter-colored green tea leaves extract.
Although putting the equivalent of 30 million chest x-rays through our food may make it look more ‘pretty,’ it kills off all bacteria – the good and the bad – and changes the constitution of our foods while damages the nutrients within it.