Beverages are very important to my well-being. I am not a great water drinker but am expert in the consumption of coffee, tea, wine and beer.
Right now, tea is top of my list. There are only so many cups of strong (albeit largely decaf) coffee I can drink in a day. And I have to fill the void left by my Lenten resolutions to give up processed sugar and alcoholic beverages (at least those that are consumed in the comfort of my own home).
Tea is the perfect drink. As a good Englishwoman, I drink `real’ tea in the afternoon: preferably lapsang souchong, the smoky flavour of which reminds me of the smell of horse tack. It is a huge anomaly that this should appeal to me as I dislike almost everything else about horses.
Mostly, though, I drink herbal tea. I start my day with a pot that I share with the kids before they depart to school and I depart to coffee (between 8am and 11.30: I am very precise).
I drink at least one further cup of herbal tea during daylight hours (often out of my trusty, but now discontinued, travel mug) and then conclude my day with a final cup and a good book (ideally). So you can see why water gets squeezed out.
I have been thrilled at the recent explosion of tea varieties and shops, though I think many promise more than they deliver. Tea needs to be super-fresh to be at its best; I often find the fragrance of teas has dissipated before it reaches me, even when it comes via quite fancy stores.
My other pet hate is individually-wrapped tea bags. Yes, they can be pretty (especially Pukka teas from the UK) and convenient, but do we really need an extra 40cm² of bleached and printed paper with every cup of tea?
Yes, the paper is recyclable/compostable but, as I have noted before, paper recycling is energy inefficient. Plus, individually-wrapped tea bags typically entail staples that add nothing to the compost stream and must detract – minutely – from taste and eco-soundness. I won’t even get into all the tales of the quality of tea that is typically used for tea bags….
So, though I do use bags for convenience, I try to find ones that come in good old boxes and that I can store in an airtight container for freshness.
Anyway, I digress.
I love most teas as long as they are not acidic – fennel is a top choice for me and my digestion – and I am an avid fan of rooibos tea. I discovered this in South Africa on the 1990s before it joined the mainstream. For those who find herbal tea to be somewhat insipid, it is the perfect choice and healthy too.
My favourite teas come from Herbal Republic, a small shop on Granville Street in Vancouver. I discovered this tea many years ago at an Ottawa retailer and have since purchased on-line and commissioned friends to bring bags back from B.C. for me (as supply is limited in Ottawa).
What is exciting now is the proliferation of rooibos blends: Herbal Republic offers some great ones. Its mokka rooibois used to come with a slogan that read something like: `with tea this good, why bother with coffee?’. I would not go that far (as I adore coffee) but this is a great, slightly sweet but by no means sickly, and gorgeously substantial tea. My second daughter’s favourite.
I also love earl grey rooibos and find that Herbal Republic makes a lovely aromatic version. This is one that needs to be fresh and well-blended (they blend theirs in house).
The company, which appears to have a good eco conscious and is part of the ethical tea partnership, offers plenty of other rooibos blends (such as African Dream and Ginger Bounce) all of which can be sampled (30g) or purchased in larger quantities.
Herbal Republic sells lots of black teas too, and has developed a compostable tea filter for restaurants and people who can’t handle loose leaf tea at home. Some are individually wrapped in plastic (grrr…) but you can also buy kits with tea that you insert yourself. This offers the ease of a bag without the extra packaging or lack of freshness that sometimes inflicts bags.
Finally, Herbal Republic has a herbal medicinals line which is Health Canada approved. Sadly I find the only one I’ve tried – the flu and cold relief – too bitter so I can’t attest to its healing merits. Let me know if you can.
The only snag about Herbal Republic is the website. It is in the process of being upgraded at which time I hope it will become a bit more user-friendly, with better descriptions and, most importantly, more transparent shipping rates.
The site currently auto-generates enormous shipping costs. They say that these are just estimates and you will be charged actual Canada Post rates, but pressing the ‘purchase’ button on a $30 shipping cost is disquieting, to say the least. You have to call in to ensure peace of mind.
If you are out there, Herbal Republic, do let us know when things are fixed up then everyone can plan a tea party (and I can fix the links in this article)!