A break from your usual cuppa
On a recent trip to London, I took my friend Eileen to my favourite haunt in the city, the Tea Palace on Westbourne Grove. Heaven, I thought, for an Irishwoman -- there were more than 200 different teas to choose from.
However, Eileen looked at me a little confused and asked, "Do you think they have ordinary tea?" What the heck was I thinking; that an Irishwoman was going to stray from tradition?
I will confess that when it comes to tea, I have strayed a little from the purity of my Irish roots and embraced a whole new world. Many teas I enjoy for their therapeutic benefits, others because I love the taste. Here are a few of my favourites:
White and green tea: There are so many varieties available -- my favourites are silver needle white tea and sencha green tea. Studies have shown that green and white teas are high in the antioxidant polyphenols, which have anti-carcinogenic properties and other health benefits, such as the ability to lower cholesterol levels. They also have low levels of caffeine.
Jasmine tea is one of my favourite teas to start the day, as it has a little caffeine to get my metabolism going but not enough to get my adrenaline pumping. It has similar health benefits to green and white tea.
Yerba mate: Native to the rainforests of Brazil and Argentina, this is a tea with many health benefits. I enjoy its smoky flavour and find it wonderful for people who want to cut back on coffee -- it has naturally occurring caffeine, but is not as irritating to the nervous system as coffee.
Masala chai: This is an Indian tea made from a combination of black tea and spices such as cardamom, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and black pepper. A non-caffeinated version is often made with rooibos tea and spices.
Rooibos -- also known as African redbush tea -- was traditionally used in Africa to treat various health problems. It is also said to be high in antioxidants and is completely caffeine-free.
Dandelion leaf and root: These are excellent liver tonics and help clear toxins from the body.
As I sat in a little teahouse in New York's West Village recently, sipping a lovely pot of spicy chai, I was inspired to create this recipe. It has become my favourite cake to enjoy with a cup of tea.