What is Butterfly Pea Tea? April 15, 2018 23:37
In 2015 on our trip to Thailand we ventured through lots of busy marketplaces sampling the most delicious foods and drinks it had to offer (to this day is still our favourite travel destination). Towards the end of our trip, we discovered by accident an amazing tea that naturally brewed a vibrant blue hue! We had never seen this type of tea before, it was so mesmerizingly beautiful. It reminded me of the crystal clear ocean in Phi Phi Islands.
We later found out it was called Butterfly Pea Tea and that it turned purple with a drop of lemon. Desperate to find out where we could get more, we contacted our family in Thailand who put us in contact with local suppliers. This was how we created Crystal Blue Tea!
So what is Butterfly Pea Flower?
Butterfly pea tea is a natural flower often known as Clitoria ternatea, Asian Pigeonwing or Blue pea. It is best grown in South East Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. The vibrant blue flower is often used in hot or cold tea, cooking and health related products.
Although butterfly pea is often associated to tea, it isn't technically a tea like green tea or black tea which is derived from a plant called Camellia Sinensis. It's actually a "herbal infusion" or a "tisane" which the same can be said about mint tea or chamomile tea. This also means it is caffeine free and can be consumed any time of day.
Why is it blue?
The flower petals itself is naturally blue and air dried so when it steeps in hot water (or cold - longer process), it releases an intense blue colour. In technical terms, it contains "anthocyanins" which are naturally occurring plant pigments. Anthocyanin is derived from the word anthos (flower) and kuanos (blue). This is also what gives fruits like blueberries, blackberries, eggplants and cabbage the same beautiful blue/purple colour along with its powerful antioxidant properties for health.
Why does it change colour?
Here's the science behind the magic sorcery! As mentioned previously, it contains "anthocyanins" and the stability of its colour is dependent on the pH. This means if you add something acidic (lowering the pH of the tea), it will change colour to a violet purple! This is great for creating your own litmus test for the kids to show the difference between acidic and alkaline substances! Or you can just say you have magical powers when you show your friends!
What does it taste like?
Butterfly pea tea on its own has been said to taste "earthy" however the Crystal Blue Tea blend has included lemongrass and pandan (sweet tasting leaf used in many Thai desserts and cooking). This creates a mildly sweet taste and once a drop of lemon is added, many say it tastes like the rainbow coloured cereal Froot Loops!
What are the health benefits?
Butterfly pea flower is an ancient herbal plant that contains one of the highest source of anthocyanin antioxidants. In Ayurvedic medicine it is highly renowned for its medicinal properties and has been used for centuries in Asia to improve circulation to the skin, hair and eyes.
It also has been suggested to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects, reduce stress and anxiety to assist in overall wellness.
While it is know that foods/beverages high in antioxidants like anthocyanins are nutritious and great for our health, only 3% of fruits and vegetables consumed were blue or purple .
What can it be used for?
- Iced Tea: Traditionally in Thailand, the butterfly pea flower tea is served as a welcome iced tea drink (along with a teaspoon of honey and squeeze of lemon over ice).
Nowadays, with the popularity of rainbow coloured foods, the ability to naturally dye your food blue without the use of artificial colours has prompted the rise in use of butterfly pea tea as seen on Instagram. For cooking, the powder version of butterfly pea flower (grounded up into powder form) is best used as it allows you to add it directly to food instead of brewing it in water first.
How do you brew it?
For a standard cup of tea (250ml), add 3-4 pieces of butterfly pea flower in boiling water and let it steep for approx. 10 minutes. This should result in a nice deep blue hue. For lighter blue, add less flowers or add more flowers for a darker blue.
For Crystal Blue Tea, the same recipe applies. Add 1 heaped tablespoon of tea into a cup making sure there are roughly 3-4 butterfly pea flowers in there. As the lemongrass and pandan leaves are bigger and takes up more space (compared to smaller cut leaves of green or black teas), you may want to add more to bring out more flavour.
When should you drink it?
As it is a herbal tea with no caffeine, you can drink it any time of day without the fear of being up all night! Many people like to drink it after a session of yoga, meditation, massage and spa as it helps with improving circulation to the body. It helps to soothe and relax your mind and body.
Is butterfly pea tea safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women?
Although this is a herbal tea, it is recommended not to be consumed by pregnant or breastfeeding women.