By Robin Devereaux-Nelson

Robert Plant does it. Heidi Klum does it. Oprah Winfrey and Gwenneth Paltrow are rumored to do it too. That's right, these folks are said to be big tea drinkers, opting for the soothing aroma and taste of the steeped leaf, rather than the half-caff-double-crème-choca-mocha-latte-half-foam concoctions tons of celebs purport to favor. Tea is making a comeback, and I say, it's about high time for high tea.

I've been a tea drinker since I was about five years old—of course I was a stealthy tea drinker, meaning I would steal sips from my Gramma Mac whenever I got a chance. She was a Red Rose girl, Gramma was. And she always put just the right amount of milk and sugar in the tea. I remember sneaking into her bedroom when she would visit because I "couldn’t sleep." Gramma would pull back the covers and pat the bed and say,"“Come on, Princess." (See, early on someone recognized my leanings toward royalty.)

Gramma would always go to bed with a good book, a net sack of green grapes and her lovely cup of tea. I would snitch a few grapes, because of course, I was STARVING, after which I would NEED a few swallows of tea, because I was THIRSTY TO DEATH. Gramma Mac would see to my dire needs, then pat my bottom and send me back to my own bed. I thought I was supremely sneaky and that my parents never knew I did that. I was crushed to learn later that they knew all along.

Tea with Gramma soothed me, and I learned early on that settling down with a cuppa was a good way to calm jangled nerves. Whether fruity, spicy or herby, I am a believer in the healing powers of tea. With cold and flu season fast approaching, I wanted to share some of my favorite tea recipes. Putting a tea together is pretty forgiving, so experiment. You will find taste combinations that nurture you and yours.

First, thought, a little tip from Gramma Mac: always heat your tea pot prior to steeping tea in it. Simply fill the tea pot with the hottest tap water available and cover with the lid for about ten minutes. Your tea will stay hot longer, and somehow the simple magic of doing this just seems to make the tea taste better. She also swore by a real china cup and silver spoon, but you can use your favorite mug or cup with great results.

One of my hub’s favorites is straight fennel tea. It’s easy to make and can be combined with some green tea for an extra anti-oxidant boost. Fennel is said to sooth coughing and raw throats. Simply place a heaping teaspoon of fennel seeds in a tea pot and cover with boiling water. You can also add one or two green tea bags to the mixture if you wish. Drink as hot as possible and cover up with a warm blanket.

This tea was introduced to me at a Warrior's Retreat by Mariah McLean. It is a cleansing tea, and helps the body sweat out impurities. In a large pot or bowl add several slices of fresh ginger, a tablespoon of cardamom pods and half a sliced lemon. Pour two quarts of boiling water on the spices and lemon and allow to cool to warm or room temperature. Relax and sip a glass of the mixture.

Here is another cold and fly favorite to try: To a pot of boiling water add one heaping teaspoon of black currant jam, 2 shots of whiskey, a slice of lemon and 2 tablespoons of honey. Stir well and drink as hot as possible, then snuggle up in a warm blanket.

Two spicy holiday teas blend fruit and spices for a marvelous drink. For the first add ¼ cup of crushed cranberries, 4 or 5 slices of tart apple, a teaspoon of whole cloves and 2 tablespoons of honey to a pot of boiling water. Allow to steep for about ten minutes and serve. Another variation is to add one sliced orange or tangerine, 2 cinnamon sticks, a teaspoon of cloves and 2 tablespoons of honey or brown sugar to a pot of boiling water. Steep and serve.

Straight mint of any kind makes a wonderful tea that can be served hot or cold, and is soothing and refreshing. Fresh mint is available year round in grocery produce sections. Simply wash the mint and place a handful in the bottom of a warmed tea pot. Pour boiling water over the mint and allow it to steep. A wonderful twist on this mint tea is to add fresh rose petals, which give the tea a hint of sweetness.

Raspberry mint tea is another wonderful combination and has the added benefit of alleviating muscle aches, according to legend. Raspberry leaves have the most healing properties, however a spoon of raspberry jam can be added to a pot of mint tea as well.

I hope you will raid your spice cupboard and experiment with tea. "Tea"se your friends and family. They'll be thankful you did!

© Robin Devereaux-Nelson, 2010