I walk over to the stovetop, grab the teapot and let the water from the kitchen faucet fill the basin until it’s almost to the spout. I bring the pot back over and light the stove. While I wait, I admire my growing plants, listen to the morning birds chirp outside my window and pick out the tea I will have today, a green turmeric, a joyous blend of ginger, lemongrass, licorice root, green matcha, orange and lemon peel. I put the loose-leaf in my little strainer, and as soon as the teapot begins to howl, I pull my favorite mug from the cabinet, place the tea strainer in the mug and pour steaming water to fill my mug. I’ll wait a few moments until it’s steeped to sit down with a book in my reading chair. I’ve just had a meditative moment with tea.
This is exactly the kind of moment Hale Tea Company wants us to have. In an ever-achieving world that moves faster than our brains can process, honoring the ritual and celebration of tea is a moment we can all afford to take, regardless of where we live, how much money we have and especially if we are navigating mental or chronic illness.
Hale Tea Company was brought to Savannah, Georgia by the Hale family in 1989, from London, England where they started a tea shop that dates back to 1872. Meg, a local SCAD graduate, is now the owner and operator of the company and she’s determined to continue its beautiful legacy. No doubt you’ve seen boxes and tins of Hale Tea at a variety of shops in town, and the herbal remedies collection is sold at Hygge.
Meg shared with me a bit about what she’s learned from both her own research and the institutional knowledge passed down to her by the Hale family. Whether you prefer hot or iced, caffeinated or decaf, we hope you can add ‘enjoyment of tea’ to your regular rituals and self-care to-do list.
Elevation is the key to success when it comes to the purity of tea. Other cultures, particularly in Asia, are growing tea leaves in the highest elevations, such as in the Himalayas. The formal name of the origin plant, the tea plant, is the camellia sinensis. All tea is made from this same leaf (unless it’s herbal--more on that later). What makes it tea is the oxidizing process, when it was picked, and the region and elevation it came from. Elevation and climate are what create the specific flavor profile.
Unfortunately for the lowcountry, that means that growing tea is not in our favor, but Meg is still determined to try growing the tea plant, along with mint, lemon balm, lavender, spearmint and camomile.
Culturally, regions that grow tea have a serious process of how and when they hand-pick the leaves, and the flavor profiles that result. Meg says her next step with Hale Tea is to find ways to incorporate that true element of ceremony. Though Americans may not be able to handle an all-day event as they do in some cultures, we can begin to consider what the opposite of “hustle” would be, and incorporate more of that into our lives.
If you learn only one thing here today, let it be this. Read (and actually use) the steep times! Prior to COVID, Meg was hosting classes on how to properly steep tea--that’s just how important it is.
I confessed to Meg that I often leave my Stomach Settler tea bag in for hours while sipping (and reheating) and she sweetly reassured me that herbals have a longer steep time, than say, an oolong tea.
A white tea is so delicate, and therefore its steep time is only about 30 seconds and green tea is about three minutes. Ultimately, only you benefit from following the recommended time, as your tea is likely to be far less bitter. Ah, if only we all read the directions…
Caffeinated vs. Decaffeinated
White tea has the most caffeine. Black tea has medium caffeine, and just below it on the totem pole of caffeine is green tea. Rooibos is always caffeine free. The exact amount of caffeine depends on the type that you’re getting and can even vary between types.
When you initially put the tea bag in hot water, it’s caffeinated. However, if you then take that tea bag and reuse it in another cup of tea, it automatically becomes decaffeinated. This is super helpful for those who have health conditions that might prevent them from drinking caffeinated teas, but they love the flavor of a black or green tea, for example. It’s especially helpful as a way to enjoy the anti-inflammatory and variety of health benefits of tea without the caffeine. And if you’re anxious, like me, a little less caffeine goes a long way.
Hale Tea’s pro-tip: Boil water and put your new caffeinated tea bag in a small bit of water in the mug. Wait for it to steep, and then pull it out and reuse in another cup, and fill with hot water. And like magic, decaf!
Herbs as Healers
Ok, now to the really good stuff. Here’s a low-down on some of Hale Tea Co’s favorite herbs and how they help address some symptoms of mental illness and other types of chronic illness. Hale Tea Company does their research and some of this feedback has been given to Meg from tea drinkers who’ve seen the benefits in real time. That said, always consult with your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns. We hope you can use tea as an excellent supplement to treating your body and mind like the shrine that it is!
The goods: Turmeric contains curcumin which is known to improve mood function. It’s also extremely anti-inflammatory. Because it can be a mood booster, this would be a great ingredient to incorporate into your tea drinking during a bout of depression. It’s also great for psoriasis, arthritis and any kind of inflammation you might be experiencing.
The goods: Alternative to its more popular brother, licorice, the licorice root isn’t nearly as potent, but it packs a punch with its antimicrobial properties. It can help with treating acne, and inflammation.
The goods: Usually very potent, star anise is more subtle in a blend. It’s known to help women going through menopause, relieve GI discomfort, help regulate blood sugar, boost heart health and ward off fungal infections and bacteria.
Try: Stomach Settler
The goods: Improves brain function, memory, behavior and mood. Protects from free radicals (those sneaky pests that speed up skin aging and cause all kinds of issues).
Try: Pure Energy, which also includes a green sencha base and ginger.
The goods: Excellent source of Vitamin C, supports those with rheumatoid arthritis and overall immune system support.
Try: Relax Herbal Dream with lemongrass, lemon verbena & chamomile for a natural wind down.
The goods: With a literal translation to “black dragon tea” from Chinese to English, you know this is going to be a good one. It’s Hale Tea Co.’s next adventure with eight new varietal blends coming soon. It’s potent, powerful and has been known to help fight cancerous cells. True story, Hale Tea Co. had a customer once that swore by drinking Oolong Tea during cancer treatment.
Don’t “Spill The Tea”
The process of drinking tea and the slowing down that it requires, regardless of the research or scientific properties, makes us feel healthier. After all, it represents caring for ourselves, and it’s highly accessible to all. Tea is a centuries-old slow-living concept that, if we allow it, can help us heal our minds, bodies and souls.
And for those mid-summer heat waves, you can always make it iced!
Photos courtesy of the Hale Tea Co. archives.