Butterfly pea tea is a refreshing herbal infusion, mostly known for its bright blue colour that can change into purple and pink. It is made by steeping flowers of the Clitoria ternatea plant in hot water; other ingredients such as honey and lemon are often added to the drink, to enhance its flavour.
In this article I will cover some basic information about butterfly pea, and share a simple recipe including some tips for making a delicious butterfly pea tea at home. It can be enjoyed both hot and cold.
Clitoria ternatea L. is a perennial herbaceous tropical plant species from the Fabaceae (legume) family. Some of its common names include butterfly pea, Asian pigeonwings, blue pea and bluebellvine. It can be found in South Asia and Southeast Asia, as well as in tropical parts of Africa, Australia and the Americas.
Butterfly pea tea health benefits
Butterfly pea flowers are full of antioxidants, so it is no wonder that some of the most commonly mentioned health benefits of the blue tea are its anti-inflammatory properties.
According to some studies, butterfly pea may be helpful in stabilising blood sugar levels too. It is also praised for its good effects on skin and hair health.
Throughout history, butterfly pea tea has been used to reduce stress and help with feeling relaxed. It is also said to be beneficial for brain function. Butterfly pea tea can definitely be a great beverage to enjoy in the evening before sleep.
Brewing the blue butterfly pea tea
To make the blue tea, you will need to pour boiling water over butterfly pea flowers, and let them steep for ten to fifteen minutes.
Strain the blue tea, and if you like its taste, you can drink it as it is. If you’d like to uplift the flavour a bit, I will give you some simple ideas to make it taste absolutely delicious.
What does butterfly pea tea taste like?
Butterfly pea tea alone has a really mild flavour. It has very delicate floral and herbal notes, with some earthy and vegetal feel to it as well. It is definitely milder than you would expect judging by its vibrant colour.
To enrich the flavour of butterfly pea tea and make it taste more exciting and appealing to any palate, you can add some extra ingredients, such as:
- honey or agave syrup – a bit of sweetener will immediately enhance the flavour of the drink;
- lemon or lime juice – another great addition to butterfly pea flower tea. Besides adding a sparkly, refreshing note to it, the acidic citrus juice will make this drink change its colour from blue to purple-pink. This can add a cool effect when serving it, especially if you pour the lemon or lime juice right before drinking the tea and have the drink change its colour in front of your guests;
- fresh lemongrass is a great, flavourful ingredient that can be added to the brew in order to further enrich the flavour of your butterfly pea drink. I often add some finely chopped fresh lemongrass to the dried butterfly pea flowers before pouring hot water over them, and let it all steep together;
- lemon or lime zest – I sometimes like to add some zest to the brew as well; butterfly pea just goes really well with citrus notes. Citrus peels are full of essential oils and I love the depth of flavour that they give to the brew.
I actually like the flavour of butterfly pea tea as it is, and enjoy sipping a cup of plain hot blue tea from time to time. The refreshing feeling that it gives me is perfectly enjoyable on its own, at least for me. But when I want to serve it to someone who has never tried it before, I will definitely go for some of the ingredients mentioned above.
Butterfly pea tea colour change explained
You will notice that the blue butterfly pea floral infusion changes its colour into purple if you add a bit of lemon or some other acidic ingredient. The more lemon juice you add, the more its colour will change towards bright pink.
The reason for this is its chemical composition; the blue colour comes from anthocyanins, the same flavonoid molecules present in the flowers that give this tea some of its health benefits. These molecules change their optical properties depending on the pH of the solution.
Colour of an anthocyanin-rich water solution can range from turquoise (in the alkaline environment), through blue and dark purple (in neutral) to bright pink (in the acidic environment).
This colour change is a cool feature that can be used in various recipes as a natural way to make the food look more interesting. In this recipe for colourful rice noodles I explained how to dye rice pasta with anthocyanins from plants, and butterfly pea flowers will actually give you one of the best results.
Butterfly pea latte
To make a creamy blue butterfly pea latte, you will simply need to brew the butterfly pea tea as shown in the recipe below, and add some milk of choice. My favourite milk to combine with butterfly pea tea is coconut milk.
When making a latte, I will always sweeten it with some honey or agave. One of my favourite latte combinations is the one with lemongrass and butterfly pea flower infusion, full-fat coconut milk and some agave syrup.
- 1 tsp dried butterfly pea flowers (that is about 3 dried flowers)
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1-2 tsp lemon or lime juice
- Lemon or lime zest (optional)
- 1 tsp chopped fresh lemongrass
- 1 tsp honey or agave nectar (optional)
- Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of dried butterfly pea flowers and let it steep for 10-15 minutes.
- Optionally, you can add some chopped fresh lemongrass and lemon or lime zest to the brew and let it steep as well.
- Strain the blue tea.
- Add the sweetener of choice and stir to dissolve.
- At this stage, you can drink it hot as it is, or let it cool down to room temperature and then chill it in the fridge for a couple of hours to make a refreshing cold drink.
- Pour all of the lemon or lime juice into your cup of butterfly pea tea and observe as it changes colour from bright blue to bright pink.
A teaspoon of chopped fresh lemongrass will enrich the flavour of your drink without changing its beautiful blue colour. Same goes for lemon and lime zest. You will simply need to add the lemongrass and/or zest to the brew, along with the dried butterfly pea flowers.
If you cannot find fresh lemongrass, dried herb will be okay too.
Honey or agave syrup are not absolutely necessary, but they will enhance the flavour of the drink. Butterfly pea tea alone is quite mild, but adding a some lemon or lime and a bit of sweetener will make it taste absolutely delicious.
If you decide to make an iced tea, it can be a cool idea to freeze some lemon juice in ice cube moulds and add those cubes to the chilled blue tea instead of lemon juice. That way the colour change will be slower and more concentrated in certain areas, making the drink look even prettier.