THE festive season is a time to indulge, to enjoy, even to relish, a lot of what you fancy.
So when January arrives, so with it the resolve to combat the effects of that festive feasting and the plans to eat healthily, exercise more and generally think more carefully about what we eat.
It can be hard cutting out the things we enjoy but a more achievable tactic is to make a few small additions to your diet to ensure you feel more energised through winter. A great way to kick start your new year, for instance, is to make some healthy home-made tea and fruit cocktails.
Tea is full of potentially health-improving ingredients, as long you enjoy it as fresh as possible. Not only is it great to drink on its own, it can also form the base of delicious, refreshing juices that make a great alternative to fruit smoothies. You can add different types of fresh, seasonal fruits or juices to your tea, depending on your own taste, and it can be enjoyed hot or cold. It is also a brilliant alcohol-free drink to enjoy with friends and you can have lots of fun serving it up in pretty glasses, tea cups and pots.
The British are famously big fans of tea, enjoying it at all times of the day, and on all sorts of different occasions. But there’s a new generation of brews that are bursting with antioxidants and boast incredible health benefits. It’s a massive market and it is fantastic to see it enjoy a resurgence with lots of unique tea companies introducing new blends, and new ways to serve it becoming more mainstream.
It’s a bit like the coffee culture that has emerged – people don’t want to drink just any old coffee these days; they want to know its origin, the blend, the flavour and the aroma. They want the best, and the same applies to tea too. There will always be a place for the good old traditional builder’s tea, but there are so many other wonderful options out there to try.
At our restaurant, we’ve recognised that our guests are increasingly interested in varieties of tea and how it is brewed and served. We offer a huge range of loose leaf teas from local tea boutique Eteaket in Edinburgh, and we like to serve them in clear teapots so our guests can watch them infuse and pour at the right time for their own taste. There’s also something really enjoyable about watching some of the floral teas blossom in the pot right in front of your eyes.
I like to experiment with different teas myself, not just at the restaurant but also for my own enjoyment. Every day before service starts I like to have a pot of tea, usually chamomile, with the team – it’s a bit of a ritual and I do it to refresh and relax. I’m always trying new things – our bar manager James recommended ginger and lemon tea recently so that’s next on my list to try.
Although it’s a nice routine, most of my chefs don’t really get the complexities of tea, but the Sudanese guys really appreciate and understand it as it’s a huge part of their heritage and has great importance in their diets.
Green tea has long been enjoyed for its health benefits and is rich in antioxidants. It can be quite bittersweet in taste though, so mixing it with other types of tea like Earl Grey – which has wonderful aromatic and relaxing properties – or indeed mixing it with fresh fruit juices, is a great way to enjoy it.
Tea is also increasingly used in cooking for smoking and marinating, and to add flavour and aroma to desserts. I like to make Earl Grey sorbet or jelly, and tea gives our prunes in Armagnac a lovely flavour.
However you take it, the start of the year is a good chance to add a little twist to your tea time. n
Fig and Cranberry Tea
This drink is based on a classic flavour combination that is fresh and well balanced. The citric acid and vitamin C in the lemon juice help preserve the flavonoids. If you want to keep a chilled batch of this in the fridge, add another squeeze of lemon juice.
• 2 large tsp of fig jam or jelly
• 100ml Earl Grey tea (cold)
• 100ml green tea (cold)
• 20ml lemon juice
• 100ml cranberry juice
• Fresh fig or lemon to garnish
Add the fig jam or jelly, the teas and juices into a shaker and shake vigorously with ice.
Double strain the mix into an ice-filled glass. Garnish with a slice of fresh fig or lemon.
Ginger, Chamomile and Orange Tea
This is a great drink with lots of health benefits. The ginger helps raise body heat, improve circulation and ward off colds. The chamomile is said to have anti-inflammatory properties and is renowned for being calming and soothing. Darjeeling tea can also be very therapeutic and is both refreshing and energising.
This recipe includes agave syrup which mixes easily with cold drinks and doesn’t cause a sharp rise or fall in blood sugar like processed sugar can. It is much sweeter than processed sugar though, so make sure you use only a small amount.
• ½ inch ginger root
• 150ml chamomile tea
• 100ml Darjeeling tea
• 100ml fresh orange juice
• 20ml fresh lemon juice
• 15ml agave syrup
• twist of orange peel to garnish
Peel, dice and crush the ginger root in the base of a shaker to release the oils.
Add the teas, juices and the agave syrup.
Double strain the mix into an ice-filled glass.
To serve, garnish with a twist of orange peel.