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What is Blue Ternatea, the Magical Color-Changing Tea?

What is Blue Ternatea, the Magical Color-Changing Tea?

Think of tea and you likely think of a regular cup of hot black tea, maybe with a splash of milk and a spoonful of sugar; comforting on a cold afternoon but not exactly thrilling. If you know your teas, you might bring to mind the spicy warmth of an Indian chai, or perhaps the bright flavors and colors — greens, reds and pinks — of a fruit infusion. 

What’s unlikely to spring to mind is a bright blue tea that can change color, has no caffeine, and can help keep you in good health. Let me introduce you to the wonder that is Blue Ternatea Tea. 

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Blue Ternatea: the Magical Color-Changing Tea

Whereas most teas are made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis shrub, blue ternate tea is made from the flowers of a herb called Clitoria ternatea, more commonly known as the butterfly pea plant, native to southwest Asia. 

Long renowned for their color infusing properties, the flowers are used locally for more than just tea. In Malaysia, for example, they are used to turn rice blue to make the popular dish Nasi Kerabu, which is served alongside fish, chicken or salads. In Thailand and Vietnam, the earthy flavors of blue ternatea are mixed with mint, cinnamon, ginger, and passion fruit to make a popular drink called ‘Nam Dok Anchan’, which is served both hot and cold. 

To Western eyes, the bright blues achieved naturally in blue ternatea tea are quite spectacular as we’re more used to bright colors being associated with manufactured food dyes. But the fun doesn’t stop there. Amazingly, teas made using blue ternatea change color with a change in pH. Add an acid such as the juice of a citrus fruit, and the color will shift to a vibrant purple. Add a base such as tonic water or hibiscus, and it will instead turn a deep, rich red. Consequently, blue ternatae is gaining popularity in the West as an ingredient in cocktails and mocktails, thanks to its ability to surprise and delight with an almost magical color-change. 

Blue Ternatea tea gets its spectacular color from the blue flowers of the C. ternatea plant (Image: freepik)

What Are the Health Benefits of Blue Ternatea Tea?

In addition to being a totally natural yet effective dye, the more health-conscious will be pleased to know that blue ternatea has a range of health-giving properties. As well as being caffeine free, it’s been associated with increased brain function, can act to reduce pain and fevers, can aid in weight loss as it increases the metabolism, can help lower blood pressure, and can even ward against cancers. Let’s dig a little deeper into the health-giving properties of blue ternatea tea. 

Brain-Boosting Capabilities (Without the Caffeine Buzz!)

Unlike the Camellia Sinensis plant used to make most teas, Clitoria ternatea contains no caffeine, and consequently blue ternatea tea is caffeine-free. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t help with brain function. Several studies have shown improved cognitive abilities in animals given C. ternatea extracts. Results included improved memory retention and spacial awareness; other studies found it could be used to treat the cognitive decline associated with a range of brain disorders. 

Aid to Weight Loss 

Want to lose extra weight? Drinking blue ternatea tea may help you out. Various studies have found that compounds within the flower might be able to help in a number of ways. One of the key compounds is the catechin epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which appears to work by speeding up metabolism, burning calories faster. Another is Ternatin, which has been shown to inhibit fat accumulation in certain cells.  

Diabetes Prevention

Although weight loss in itself reduces the risk of diabetes, blue ternatea may help in another way – by stabilizing blood sugar levels, preventing that rush of sugars and associated insulin spikes which over time result in Type 2 diabetes. In one study, rats with diabetes who were given C ternatea extract were found to have lower blood glucose levels than those in a control group.  

Anti-inflammatory, Antipyretic, and Pain-Relieving

Next time you have a fever, there’s no need to reach for the paracetamol — blue ternate has the same ability to reduce fevers and kill pain thanks to its ability to dilate blood vessels, which helps the body get rid of excess heat (it also reduces blood pressure).Blue ternatea has also been shown to help reduce swelling, making it a must-have for your natural first aid kit. 

Packed Full of Antioxidants

Green tea is the tea-lovers’ go-to drink for antioxidants – those helpful free radicals that help prevent cancers and can stave off the effects of aging, but if you want the same fantastic benefits without the caffeine that green tea contains, reach for the Blue ternatea instead. Studies have found that it’s the only herbal infusion to contain similar levels of antioxidants to green tea. 

Ways to Enjoy Blue Ternatea Tea

The Classic Tea: One of the best ways to enjoy blue ternatea is as a classic tea. Simply place a heaped teaspoon of the blue flowers into a pot or mug of hot water, and allow them to steep. Within 15 minutes (the tea will become bitter if you leave it longer than that) the flowers will have released their beautiful blue hue, along with an earthy yet pleasantly sweet flavor. Enjoy! 

Blue Ternatea Lemonade: Want to see the color-changing magic show that blue ternatea is able to perform? There’s no better way than to make a blue ternatea lemonade. 

You’ll need: 

  • 2 heaped teaspoons blue ternatea flowers
  • 1 liter water
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Sugar or honey to taste
  • Crushed ice (optional)

First, heat the water and steep the flowers, as you would if making the classic tea. After 15 minutes, strain the flowers from the water and set aside. Let the tea cool. Next, squeeze the juice from one lemon, taking care to strain out all the pips. Add the juice to the tea; the color should change from blue to a deep violet. Lastly, add sugar or honey to sweeten the lemonade according to taste, pour over crushed ice, and enjoy! 

Blue Ternatea Tea Latte: Hot days are made for lemonade, but cool evenings are perfect for tea lattes, and blue ternatea is no exception. Again, making the drink couldn’t be more simple. All you need is: 

  • 1 liter water
  • 2-3 heaped tsps blue ternate flowers
  • ½ cup milk
  • Sugar or honey to taste

As before, begin by making a classic blue ternatea tea in a teapot by steeping the flowers in hot water. Next, steam the milk in a mug until it is hot and frothy. Once ready, pour over the blue ternatea tea, allowing the liquids to blend. Finally, add sugar or honey to your personal taste. 

Blue ternatea can be used to make colorful cocktails (Image: Sarah Stierch / Creative Commons)

Blue Ternatea and Alcohol

Blue ternatea tea is technically a “tisane” — a herbal infusion commonly drunk for medicinal purposes, but as an infusion it can also be used as an ingredient in cocktails (hurray!)

Cold Brew: There are a few ways to do this. One is simply to make a cold brew using the blue ternatea flowers, and add the tea to your favorite cocktail for color-changing fun. Some people like to freeze the tea into ice cubes and add them to the drink, so the color changes slowly as the cubes melt. 

Blue Ternatea Syrup: Another is to make a blue ternatea syrup. For this you’ll need three ingredients: 

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup blue ternatea flowers (fresh or dried). 

To make the syrup, simply add all three ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer on a medium to high heat. Once the mixture is simmering, stir gently to dissolve all the sugar. When the sugar is dissolved, you can turn the heat down to low and allow the mixture to simmer gently for a further ten minutes. Then take off the heat and allow to cool. Voila! You’ll now have a blue ternatea syrup, which can be added to lemonades, gin and tonics, or any other drink you can think of. Just pour a little in and watch the color change!  

Creme de Butterfly (Blue Ternatea Liqueur) For the truly adventurous, a third method is to make your own homemade blue ternatea liqueur. Coming in at around 20% proof, the liqueur has a slightly sweet flavor and lends itself to use in a whole range of cocktails. If you’re a cocktail fan, why not make up a batch of this liqueur to experiment with your own mixes? 

This recipe comes courtesy of Kodi at Cooking to Entertain. He also lists five great-tasting cocktail recipes you can use it in. 

Ingredients

  • 500 ml grain Vodka (don’t use potato vodka).
  • 500 ml filtered water
  • 500 grams white sugar white
  • 2 tsp blue ternatea flowers (fresh or dried)
  • 3 leaves Lemongrass (optional)

Method

– Heat the vodka on the stove until it reaches simmering point.

– Place the flowers in a lidded jug, jar or container. Pour the hot vodka over the flowers. – Allow the flowers to steep for five minutes with the lid off, then place the lid on top and move the container to a cool dark place. Leave it there for four days.

– After four days, strain the mixture using a cheesecloth to catch the flowers, along with any grit or dirt that might also have made it into the pot. Pour the strained liquid into a clean jug or jar big enough to hold at least a liter of liquid.

– Using a separate pan, place the water, sugar and lemongrass on your stove over a low heat. Gently bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring until the sugar fully dissolves.

– Remove the lemongrass leaves, then add the syrup to your blue ternatea flower infused vodka.

– Let the mixture cool, and hey presto – your Creme de Butterfly is ready to use! The liqueur will keep for quite a while, but the color may fade a little over time as there are no preservatives in the mixture. 

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