Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tea time in Peru

On page 103 of my book, Jonathon is given muña tea to drink. The tea is described as being sweet and having the ability to help the drinker feel better.

Peruvians drink a lot of herbal teas, for a variety of ailments. Though not common in Lima, muña tea is more often found in the mountains of Peru because it helps with altitude sickness. It also reduces headaches, settles upset stomachs and soothes or relaxes the drinker. And it is simply delicious. Best of all, I do not think it needs sugar to be flavorful.

The natives said the plant had always been called muña, even by their ancestors—which may explain why I could not find a Spanish-English translation for it. Muña may be a transliteration of a native word and not Spanish at all. So I studied the actual plant in hopes I would recognize it in the States.

Years later I discovered muña was a type of tarragon. How excited I was to retrieve some tarragon leaves from my cupboard and try steeping them into a cup of tea. The aroma and flavor were just as I remembered: naturally sweet and full. Move over chamomile tea!

I now grow tarragon in my garden and in the winter enjoy a sweet cup of this tea.

But there are other teas in Peru. My family loves hot lemon tea. Simply add fresh lemon juice or lemon juice concentrate to hot water and sweeten with honey. It is great for treating sore throats or just enjoying in cold weather.

Another favorite tea in Peru was anise tea. It tastes like black licorice.

Toasted carrot tea tastes just like black tea and is healthy for you. Grate some carrots, allow the gratings to dry completely for several days then toast them in a hot, dry pan until dark brown. Delicious!

Whole oats toasted in a similar way also create a natural tea that tastes similar to coffee or Postum.

So, in the final days of winter, try an herbal tea...add your selection into a tea ball and let steep in a cup of hot water for one to two minutes. If you don't have a tea ball you can still make the tea, simply skim off any leaves or seeds before you drink and enjoy!

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