International Tea Day is celebrated globally on May 21st, but here at Helen + Hildegard, it’s Tea Day everyday - especially for our founder, Sonya D’Cunha. Herbs have been a guiding force in Sonya’s life, and she makes a point to have some herbs brewed into tea throughout most of the day. We asked our in-house expert about some of her favourite teas and why it’s so important to have tea in our lives!
What tea are you drinking right now?
I’m rediscovering an old favourite: Labrador Tea. I used to harvest this all the time while camping and canoeing in Algonquin. It’s a little evergreen shrub, native to Northern Ontario that you can find in the woods and on the Canadian Shield. It has these amazing, structured leaves that are green on one side and a fuzzy burnt orange on the other side. Often, a fuzzy component to a leaf or plant indicates an affinity for the lung, so nature tells us that this is a great respiratory tea.
What is your favourite tea? You can pick a few, I’m sure that’s a tough one.
Of the teas we carry, I personally love Women’s Wisdom! I also love Elderflower tea, it’s a respiratory aid that’s a great circulatory stimulant and wonderful for reproductive health as well. It has a delicious flavour too - adding Elderflower into a tea blend always brews into a full bodied infusion. In the evening; organic Chamomile is my staple, while in the morning I really like doing a combination of Holy Basil and Yerba Mate to foster a clear mind throughout my day. Lastly, when in doubt I will always mix Nettle Leaf in - they’re great for energy because they’re high in iron, and are wonderful support for the liver and lymphatic cleansing.
Do you have any secret tricks to make the best tea?
I try to make tea uncomplicated, and therefore accessible, for people but one easy tip is to use loose leaf teas instead of bagged tea. The benefit of loose leaf tea is that, not only is it typically less expensive and creates less waste, but you’re able to see the quality of the plant first hand. It’s important to ensure that its dried version has some resemblance to its fresh form, indicating that it still maintains the plant’s potency and flavour for your maximum enjoyment.
Why is it important to purchase organic tea over non-organic tea?
Organic teas are typically more trustworthy for quality and purity because their production processes are so highly controlled, and there are transparent and traceable third party management systems that growers and handlers are accountable to in order to achieve organic certification. In addition to this level of scrutiny, chemicals and pesticides being used on tea can sometimes diminish the potency and interfere with its flavour.
What are two questions you would ask someone looking to create a custom tea blend?
First off, I always ask what they’re personally experiencing, and what they’d want the tea to try to get the whole story. Someone might come in for stomach aches, but after digging deeper over a gentle conversation, I’ll learn that those aches aren’t coming from a digestive issue, but instead they seem to get a cramping sensation every time they have a big work deadline. In that case I might take a look at supporting their nervous system and how they manage stress in addition to herbs that will help calm their tummy. It’s always important to get to the root cause of an issue. Secondly, I also always ask about interactions: are they on any other medication, have any major or acute health issues, and if there’s anything they’re already doing to help address this. That way I can complement their other therapeutic efforts instead of contradicting or duplicating them.
How can incorporating herbal teas into our daily life impact overall well being?
In a number of beautiful ways! Brewing a tea can be such a wonderful mindful practice. It’s something that is integrated across cultures, as soon as there were plants plus water - even without heat - people have been drinking teas of some nature for ages.
Teas are such a simple way to get basic nutrition. Drinking tea is a very efficient way to get nutrients into your body and have them assimilate easily. Your body can only absorb a certain dosage of vitamins and minerals through capsules and pills, but if you’re sipping on teas throughout the day, they work as a time release because the nutrients are flowing through the digestive system already broken down and ready to absorb.
In my experience, I have found that tea is the great equalizer between cultures, socioeconomic groups, and people of all backgrounds. I used to run workshops for women-at-risk in different marginalized communities where many of the women and young mothers were new immigrants to Canada. Often, these women weren’t too practiced in English - and I obviously couldn’t speak the plethora of languages they spoke - but we found common ground through the ritual of tea together. Sharing the different teas from each of their cultures was such a rich unifying connector for everyone.
Be sure to explore our selection of custom tea blends online or pop by the shop (for distanced/curb-side service) and have a tea consultation to figure out what blend might be right for you. Celebrate International Tea Day with some freshly brewed, organic, loose leaf tea this year and feel the magic of tea flow through your body.