Bush Tea

Bush Tea
Many a Caribbean morning starts with a hot Johnny Cake and bush tea. Leave the skinny lattes and muffins to those fighting their way into the subway. Not only are the region’s guerrilla infusions refreshing and clean on the early morning palate, but they also are steeped in natural medicine folklore. In short, fans of bush tea credit their morning cuppa with fixing everything from arthritis, cramps and poor digestion to fighting diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

The beauty of a bush tea is the slow release of warm, herby aromas, and the primal pleasure in coaxing flavor from a handful of leaves, sticks and spices. Effete tea bags, however artistically decorated, just don’t touch the same nerve.

One of best known (if not loved) bush teas is Jamaican Cerassee tea, more of an obligation than an indulgence, which is thought to clean the blood, aid digestion, and fight off infections. Something this impalpably bitter must be healthy goes the fundamental logic.

Other teas capitalize on the abundance of fresh herbs available throughout the Caribbean. A few leaves of mint, lemon grass, vervain or basil topped off with a little honey are light and refreshing, and thought to keep fevers and colds at bay.

Alternatively, the leaves of the soursop, lime, or moringa tree can be steeped in boiling water, taking care to catch the steam beneath a lid, and boosted with a stick of cinnamon, some nutmeg or allspice.

One surprising caveat relating to bush teas came from a University of the West Indies study which found that the perceived benefits of bush teas might be imagined. Worse still, some teas might even be toxic. Taking as samples the bush-tea-loving countries of Jamaica and Guyana, the study found a prevalence of kidney problems which could be linked to toxins in teas made from Cerasse, aloe vera and even marijuana.

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