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Blue tea: The brightly colored beverage you probably haven’t heard of

Tea is a wonderful beverage. Not only is it warming and delicious and loaded with plenty of health benefits, but drinking tea also makes one feel all nice and fancy, as though one were living in Downton Abbey and the kind of person who refers to herself as “one” regularly.

There are many varieties of tea that one could daintily sip with the Dowager Countess. There is black tea and green tea and rooibos tea and white tea, and there is even blue tea. Blue tea is very uncommon, but that just makes it seem fancier, no?

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A person speaking of “blue tea” might actually be referring to one of two different products, which can make things confusing. Sometimes the phrase “blue tea” or “blue-green tea” is used to refer to oolong tea, which is a type of tea that is partly oxidized during the production process to give it a flavor and character somewhere between green tea and black tea. Despite the fact that it is sometimes called “blue tea,” brewed oolong tea tends to range in color from light yellow to a pretty, reddish brown, but it does not actually look blue in the cup. The addition of some blue flowers, however, can turn a cup of tea truly blue, and that is when one gets a “blue tea” that really fits its name.

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The presence of dried petals or blossoms from blue flowers blended with green, white, black or oolong tea gives the resulting brew a floral scent and a blue tint. The tea photographed here, for example, is the French Tea by Mariage Frères, which is an oolong tea that has been blended with blue butterfly pea flowers. The flower petals give it a pretty color that ranges from light yellow to deep blue, depending on how many petals find their way into a particular serving, and a rich, smooth, sweet and distinctly floral aroma.

The greater the proportion of flowers to tea, the bluer the beverage will be. If one’s goal is a very bright blue cup, BlueChai even has a product that is entirely made of butterfly pea blossoms, and the resulting brew is a very bright, clear blue that is pretty neat to look at. It is so blue it is difficult to believe the color does not come from artificial sources, but it really is just the natural color of the butterfly pea blossoms. If you want to get really fancy, adding a few drops of lemon juice actually turns that tea purple, which sounds like a good trick to have up one’s sleeve if one ever plans on impressing the queen at tea.

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Blue flowers, like BlueChai’s butterfly pea blossoms, make for a very impressive-looking and fragrant cup of blue tea, but a “tea” made entirely from blue flowers really isn’t technically a “tea” at all. All teas that can technically be called “tea” are made from the same leaf, which comes from a plant called camellia sinensis. “Tea” made from the leaves of other plants is more properly called an herbal infusion or a “tisane,” though if you ask for “chamomile tea” or “mint tea,” everyone will still know what you are talking about.

The blue flowers that give a blue tea its distinctive appearance also offer some reported health benefits in addition to being pretty to look at. They contain antioxidants called proanthocyanidins, which are powerful antioxidants that can help prevent and repair cellular damage from free oxygen radicals. They are also credited with being able to increase collagen production and skin elasticity, which would give them excellent anti-aging properties.

More: 5 Benefits of drinking tea

Like many floral teas, a tea with blue flowers looks exceptionally pretty when brewed in a glass pot so one can see the color. That adds a nice touch, but with a tea this fancy, any mug or pot will do.

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