A curious thing happened after a recent night out on the town in Banff: I didn’t wake up feeling worse for the wear. I deserved to be. I’d done that thing you’re never supposed to do and mixed my alcohols.
But reflecting back on the night, there was one constant. Each drink was infused with tea. Not just any tea, but organic blends from Jolene’s Tea House.
A Banff institution since 2005, Jolene’s Tea House (formerly known as Natur’el Tea) recently opened their first retail space in one of Banff’s oldest buildings, the old Crag Cabin, built around 1889.
“Tea is a part of our daily culture in the mountains,” notes founder Jolene Brewster. “It’s on the trail when you break out your thermos and it’s waiting for you at your lodge when you return from your adventures.”
Brewster and her team hand blend over 75 different ingredients, many of which are local herbs and flowers, and all are 100 per cent organic. Since beginning wholesale operations in 2005, they’ve perfected over 60 unique blends ranging from classic black teas to delicate whites to wellness-inspired herbal infusions.
Tea that is black, green, white, oolong or pu’erh, all come from the same plant: camellia sinensis. They’re processed differently, which accounts for their different flavour profiles. Yet all are rich in polyphenols. Research shows long-term consumption of a diet rich in polyphenols can protect against heart disease, blood clots and certain cancers.
“We don’t have cause and effect tea studies, but there are some studies associating tea with positive health outcomes. We do, however, know all about those studies on polyphenols and flavonoids, which are linked to better health and better dietary patterns,” says Dr. Wendy Ward, professor and Canada Research Chair at Brock University.
Health benefits aside, Brewster believes having a tea daily ritual is the most important wellness factor.
“It’s the process of setting aside time to make something good yourself. It’s being aware of how much tea you’re using, watching the steep time and not doing other things at once. You can’t rush the process and expect the same enjoyment. Doing it with intention makes a world of difference,” she avows.
Sipping tea can be a meditative, solo activity as evidenced by Japanese tea ceremonies that have developed into an art form. Yet the social aspect of taking tea with others shouldn’t be discounted. Socializing over a cuppa is a healthy, affordable way to deepen relationships, plus it provides an opportunity to connect with kids.
“When children have tea, they can’t run around. They’re sitting down. After school is a good transition time to bring in some pause and conversation. Having this little ceremony with kids is important,” maintains Brewster.
If you’re not a teetotaler, you’ll be happy to know local mixologists now infuse tea flavours into tonics, spirits and syrups for cocktails.
Rundle Bar, inside Fairmont Banff Springs, recently debuted a new cocktail called the Peach Winery, comprised of Pinot Grigio, Giffard Crème de Pêche, verjus and black tea syrup.
At Three Bears Brewery, tea lovers can imbibe a Rooibos Collins made with Jolene’s cold-pressed rooibos tea, Park Vanilla Vodka and strawberry soda.
For something more potent, head to Chuck’s Steakhouse for the Mother of Earl, a citrusy concoction served in a coupe and layered with floral notes of Earl Grey.
And over at Hello Sunshine, they’ve got a riff on a pina colada made with matcha for a more complex, less saccharine tipple.
Sadly, according to the experts, my lack of hangover couldn’t be attributed to boozing with tea. Everyone metabolizes alcohol differently, and there’s no research to support tea-based cocktails. But that won’t keep me from continuing to experiment with tea.
How to brew the perfect cuppa
Use good quality tea. Loose-leaf is best.
Different types of tea require different water boiling temperatures. Ensure you boil to the correct temperature as indicated on the tea packaging.
Use the right amount of tea per cup.
Steep your tea for the correct amount of time. It takes at least 10 minutes for the ingredients in herbal teas to soften and release their benefits. Some herbal varieties may require even more time.
Jody Robbins is a Calgary-based lifestyles writer. Follow her wellness adventures on her blog: Travels with Baggage and on Instagram at TravelswBaggage.