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Star Anise is a star shaped fruit grown on the evergreen illicium verum tree.
These plants are found near China and Vietnam, and they possess a wonderfully aromatic flavor profile comparable to licorice or fennel. Although it shares a name and flavor notes with anise, they are entirely different plants.
Once used in traditional medicines, the spice obtained from the fruit is also a pivotal ingredient in Chinese Five Spice powder – a popular spice blend known for its warm and sweet qualities, especially when combined with poultry dishes.
However, when it comes to this spice, not many people know that it also makes for a delicious cup of tea with a warm soothing kick.
The spice itself is available in a variety of forms ranging from already ground spices to fruit pieces or whole fruits. In order to extract the strongest flavor from the fruit, it is recommended to grind it just before using it, much like you would with espresso beans.
How To Make Star Anise Tea
In order to brew the ideal cup of this tea, it is vital to have your tools ready, so grab your favorite pot, set out the fine cups and prepare your strainer if needed. Grab your favorite kettle, too.
For this cup, leaves are not the order of the day, instead when it comes to star anise the seeds or pods are used to extract flavor. Always try and use the freshest ingredients for maximum impact.
What you will need for one cup:
- One tablespoon of seeds or 1 to 2 pods of Star Anise
- One cup of boiling water at 100ºC or 212ºF
- Optional sweeteners such as honey or sugar
- Almond or warm milk if desired
To brew, simply add your spice to the boiling water and allow the flavor to infuse.
When it comes to making this tea, the strength is determined by the amount of seeds or pods used, and therefore it can be adjusted to suit any palate.
The flavor can be a strong throaty hit or a mild fennel tingle on the tongue.
In terms of steeping, let the drink stand for about 10 to 15 minutes in order to let the magic happen in your cup. Once it is ready, strain it, and serve with honey for rich but sweet addition.
Almond milk or warm milk can also be added, however this tea demands to be drunk in its purest form in order to experience its warm and soothing qualities.
Health Benefits of Star Anise Tea
As with any tea drink, the main reason star anise tea should be enjoyed is for its unique flavor profile – after all, treating tea the same way one does medicine does not make for a soothing cuppa in the afternoon.
That said, the tea does purport to have some health benefits that will be discussed below.
Now that you intend on having a cup with these health benefits in mind, always consult your doctor first in order to eliminate any serious ailments rather than depending on tea as a cure. Tea is soul medicine with added body bonuses, but it does not cure all.
- Combats Candida Albicans: Researchers in South Korea have found that star anise has antifungal properties in terms of combating Candida Albicans. Therefore the extracts from this plant can help combat this type of yeast infection commonly occurring in the throat, mouth and genitourinary tract.
- High concentration of Shikimic Acid: When used in combination with quercetin, Italian researchers have found that Shikimic Acid can help raise immune levels and possibly assist the body with fighting viral infections. Star anise has one of the highest concentrations of Shkimic Acid, making it a primary source for this health booster.
- Antibacterial powerhouse: Star Anise possesses antimicrobial compounds which, according to researchers in Taiwan, may combat up to 67 strains of bacteria that are traditionally drug-resistant. According to The Journal of Medicinal Food (October 2010), this discovery may allow for new antibiotic medicines to be developed in the future.
- Antioxidant source: While not able to physically turn back time, this tea boasts antioxidants that are able to get rid of free radicals and thus undo some of the cellular damage caused by the metabolic processes of the body. Studies have shown that animals who were fed star anise showed less chances of developing cancer (Chemico-Biological Interactions, 2007). Antioxidants are also touted to have anti-ageing properties, and could help restore the elasticity in skin.
Toxic Myth: Is Star Anise Tea Harmful?
Chinese Star Anise in itself is not harmful or toxic, and it has a long history of safe use in medicine, tea and cooking. In rare cases infants who ingest the tea have been known to exhibit irritability, vomiting and seizures – however these symptoms are often attributed to cases where pure Chinese star anise has been confused or tainted with Japanese star anise, a toxic variety that should not be consumed. Thus, when making star anise tea, ensure that it is not Illicium anisatum (Japanese star anise).
To summarize: Chinese star anise does not pose any toxic threat unless it is confused for or mixed with its Japanese counterpart.
Other ways to enjoy a cup of this plant tea
While it is a standout tea flavour in its own right, Star Anise can also be added to other teas to enhance or change the flavour into something new.
Give a cup of chai tea an added layer of depth by steeping a pod with your regular brew, or create a soothing night time cup of relaxation by combining chamomile and Star Anise. Another benefit of keeping star anise in your tea pantry is the fact that the sweet flavour tones in the spice can be used to cut through the bitterness of certain herbs, allowing you to create flavourful herbal blends with a minimised bitter aftertaste.
Star Anise is a wonderful all round tea and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. For those venturing into the realm of herbal teas and away from the standard cuppa, it is an excellent introduction to new flavour profiles while staying true to the soothing afternoon cup so many love.