Herbal tea is increasing in popularity for its flavor, aroma, caffeine-free nature, and potential health benefits. In fact, the Global Herbal Tea Market is projected to steadily rise over the next few years and the revenue is expected to reach over 4 billion dollars by 2028. Some of the top-producing countries of herbal tea include Bangladesh, China, India, Kenya, Argentina, and Brazil.
Joining the trend is the United States, which has been steadily increasing its herbal tea production for the past few years. In fact, it has risen by 1.9% each year since 2017. One American variety that has remained a mystery to the rest of the world is mamaki tea. Derived from a plant native to Hawaii, this exotic infusion is produced in small quantities.
A Flowering Plant
Mamaki tea is brewed by steeping the leaves of the Pipturus albidus plant in hot water. This plant, which can be found growing on most of the main Hawaiian Islands is endemic to this isolated part of the world.
Pipturus albidus is a small flowering plant that can grow up to 18 feet tall. Belonging to the nettle family, it grows in the Hawaiian tropical rainforests at elevations between 100 to 4,000 feet. This plant is selective about where it grows as it requires a lot of water. Not only does it thrive in places that receive a minimum of 40 inches of rain a year, but it also requires soil with excellent drainage.
Even though the mamaki plant is an understory shrub thriving naturally between the forest floor and the canopy, it can also be cultivated if given the proper conditions. Mamaki can grow from a seed or from a snippet from a mature plant and, once it reaches maturity, the leaves can be harvested anywhere from four to six times a year.
The length of the Pipturus albidus leaves can be anywhere from a few inches long to almost 12 inches in length. Having a wide base that tapers to a pointy top, the leaves are dark green and fade to a light green color at the bottom. The veins on the leaves are deep red.
Before mamaki tea can be made, the leaves are harvested and dried. The best method for drying requires using a dehydrator. It is also suggested that if harvesting and preparing the leaves yourself, the stems be removed, as they are not used when brewing mamaki tea. When dried, the leaves turn from a beautiful green color to more of a greyish-black.
The leaves of the Pipturus albidus plant were first used by early Polynesian settlers of Hawaii centuries ago. Not only were they utilized as remedies for common ailments, but they were also harvested and used as a food source. These leaves are still relied upon today by many who practice traditional medicine.
Available in both sachets and loose, the brewing process is simple and straightforward. All you will need is a kettle or pot to boil some water, a teapot to steep the leaves, a strainer to catch the used leaves, and a cup to drink from.
For this recipe, it is recommended that you use 1 to 2 teaspoons of crushed dry leaves for every 8 fl oz of water. Be sure to measure out the correct quantities before you start the brewing process.
- Bring your water to a boil. For the best results, it is suggested to use spring water.
- While the water is coming up to temperature, place the measured-out leaves into the teapot.
- When the water starts to boil, pour it into the teapot. Cover with the lid and allow the leaves to steep for 10 minutes.
- Strain the leaves out of the brew and pour the tea into the cups. Then, you can either enjoy it as is or add extra ingredients or sweeteners to enhance the flavor.
Characteristics of Mamaki Tea
This tisane, which is a beautiful red color, has a flavor that is often compared to that of hibiscus tea. Smelling pleasant and slightly floral, this tea is said to be subtly sweet with fruity, earthy, and nutty notes. It has also been described as mildly acidic.
Nutrition & Caffeine
One teaspoon of mamaki tea leaves has zero calories, carbs, fats, and proteins. Naturally caffeine-free, this tisane is an excellent alternative for highly caffeinated beverages as it can be enjoyed any time of day. It is also rich in antioxidants.
Enhancing the Flavor
Although it hasn’t been studied fully, this herbal tea is believed to be valuable for the human body. In fact, the first settlers to Hawaii suspected the same thing. Today, herbalists believe this tisane is beneficial for reducing high blood pressure, boosting the immune system, reducing stress and fatigue, and aiding in a healthy digestive tract.
Native to Hawaii, this herbal tea has been utilized for centuries as both a form of nutrition and for its potential health benefits. Since the mamaki plant, also known as Pipturus albidus, only grows naturally in this remote part of the world, this herbal tea is harder to get ahold of and is regarded as a precious gem.
The large green and red-veined leaves of this plant, which can grow up to a foot long, are dried and crushed in preparation for making tea. When brewed, the tisane is a gorgeous red color. Tasting slightly sweet with subtle fruity and nutty notes, this caffeine-free drink is ideal for any time of day.
If you’re new to the popular world of herbal teas, or you haven’t yet tried this exotic variety, it should be on your bucket list. Not only is it simple to brew, it’s also delicious, refreshing, and versatile. It can be enjoyed as a hot, fresh brew or poured over ice to quench your thirst.