Jamaican Bush Tea
Jamaica’s hot herbal drinks that are usually consumed at breakfast are referred to as Jamaican “bush tea.” In every imaginable way that name is aptly put.
What else would you call these hot Jamaican bush tea drinks anyway? You could come up with any number of names you like, but the “elders” would surely ignore you. Unless you come up with a name that makes children learn to love “cerasse tea.”
I will cover that later on…
Well the belief “du jour” is that these “bush teas” are good for you, and if you dispute that belief then you will just do without drinking tea.
And your actions would be interpreted as quite out of the norm in some circles. Be that as it may, the younger folks are opting out of this tradition these days.
Although there has not been a rush to scientifically substantiate all of these claims about Jamaican bush tea, some data have been collected by various organizations to further explore and validate these folk beliefs.
In truth, some of these bushes (herbs) have been analyzed by some doctors and scientist over the years, but the conclusive evidence is not completely in agreement with regard to the local beliefs.
Cerasse (momordica charantia), the one and only Jamaican bush tea feared by everyone because of its far degree of bitterness, is believed to be a blood cleanser and sugar control agent for diabetes.
And it is widely accepted that a fair consumption of this bitters on a weekly basis will prevent colds, flu, headaches, jaundice, and bellyache…and that’s just for some ailments that this Jamaican bush tea is good for.
I did not make this up! Believe me!
Since cerasse is the most ghastly tasting beneficial Jamaican bush tea (herb) of all, parents and old folks alike, find ways to prepare this tea in ways children will like.
These parents knew that it would take an eclipse of the sun and moon for any child to volunteer to drink this healthy bitter-tasting beverage.
So, you can imagine the scene when it came around for the children to be “drenched.” How else to describes this forced Jamaican bush tea drinking action?!
In fact, in my early childhood we were bribed with candy and our favorite sweet snacks whenever the “drenching” was to take place.
Or we would ask that the cerasse tea be sweetened with brown sugar or sweetened condensed milk.The sweetened cerasse tea slowly disappeared as I soon as I became a teenager though.
By this time I was literally threatened by my father and uncle to drink up and shut up. And my aunt would tell me, in any way she feels, that if I don’t drink the Jamaican bush tea then I would not get the rest of my breakfast.
Needless to say I waited until the Jamaican bush tea was lukewarm and swallowed it at lightening speed. No, I will not be denied breakfast. Especially on Sundays…No Mon!
But that aside, the verdict on many Jamaican bush teas is still out there, including cerasse.
This medicinal herb which is used in Jamaica and many other tropical and sub-tropical countries around the world is still revered by many.
This fact is so because you will find cerasse and other Jamaican bush tea nowadays in your favorite health food or grocery store… packed and branded for your consumption.
These packed cerasee tea bags are convenient for just one 8 oz. drink. And that extreme bitter taste is not there like the freshly picked cerasee bush we had years ago. Hurray! It’s about time…Yah Mon!
I will use SoloBuildIt! to continue bring more information about Jamaican“bush tea” below, but before I do that, I’d like to remind you that you can look up any of this information about Cerasee and other Jamaican foods on the Internet, using your favorite search engine, or try this little search tool, SearchIt!, passed on by the good folks at SiteSell.
O.K. Enough about that bitter drink, that’s supposedly good for you and me, and let’s get to the good tasting Jamaican bush teas that are delicious and palate-friendly.
The first one that comes to mind is, Mint. We have Black Mint and Pepper Mint as our two favorites. “Mint teas” are used primarily for breakfast, and at times it is given to young children at bedtime. However, Black Mint seems to be the more dominant breakfast favorite. But Pepper Mint is the true all-rounder. It is accepted like that because it’s the first piece of bush we boil or steep whenever we have minor ailments like, nausea, headache, vomiting, or any general “bad feelings.”
Pepper Mint is also easily grown and cared for; you don’t need any fertilizer or special handling when it comes to growing Pepper Mint. Simply plant it in any black dirt, water it for a few weeks and you will get the best tasting mint ever imagined. It may also be available at your grocery store .…branded and packaged like other teas.
Another one of my all time favorite herb is Fever Grass, or Lemon Grass as it’s known in some places. As the name implies, we drink it for a speedy recovery when we have a fever. But I like it so much I can drink it anytime, day or night.
This grass grows wild in the rural parts of Jamaica, and is seasonal. The taste is a light lemon flavor. It is boiled in water for about ten minutes and then sweetened with brown sugar. Everybody loves Fever Grass tea; no complaints from anyone.
The ginger root is also used to make tea. But ginger tea is very rarely used, if at all, for breakfast. Many people make ginger tea to aid in digestion, cure “bad feelings,” cool down, and remove mucus from one’s system. It is also combined with Pepper Mint to make Ginger/Mint tea. Ginger is cultivated on small farms around the island and it seems like there is an endless supply of this root. I say this because I have never heard of ginger being scarce. Ginger/Mint tea bags are available in packs nowadays.
The soursop fruit, also known as Guanabana in the Spanish-speaking islands, has many uses as in making juice and ice cream. However, the leaves from the tree are used to make tea for such ailments as diabetes and nerves problems. And quite frankly, it is very inexpensive to make. I use to drink it every morning because it cost nothing to pick a few leaves from the soursop tree, boil them in water for a few minutes and in no time you have a delicious tea.
Lime Leaf Tea…Do I need to explain this one? O.K., this tea is made just like the one above-soursop leaf tea. Lime Leaf Tea is the ultimate poor man’s tea. Sweetened with brown sugar after boiling for a couple of minutes, this lime flavored hot beverage is good to go. I was never told what medicinal value this drink has so I can’t say anything about lime leaf tea, except that it tastes good.
There are some bushes (herbs) in Jamaica that are made into hot or cold beverage solely for their healing properties. Those “teas” are not casually consumed by everyone and you can understand why. These beverages have dosage amounts and restrictions given by the originators and local advisers.
One such bush is known as Donkey Weed. This drink was given to me a couple of times because I felt dizzy and my vision was temporarily blurred.
I was told not to drink too much of this drink because it will “kill my nature.” Meaning, my sexual desires may decrease. Really?! So I quickly find an alternative cure for my temporary ailments…Lots and lots of water.
These warnings can make an herb disappear quickly from the general roster. Well, Donkey Weed has not been talked about too much; first of all it grows only in gravel, or in the middle of railroad tracks among the stones and gravel.
That’s not healthy at all when you consider that the trains deposit small amounts of grease and diesel fuels onto the tracks all the time. So for many reasons unknown to us, this bush is left out of the annals of Jamaican bush tea history.
And last to mention is the one and only Kola Nut, also known as Bizzy Nut, or Bizzy. This nut is grated, boiled and then sweetened with sugar or honey. The ailments Bizzy is said to relieve are, menstrual cramps, headache, gout, rheumatism, jaundice, nausea, vomiting, and upset stomach. Bizzy is further used in removing poisons from the body, birth control, aids in the control of diabetes, and weight loss. Enough can’t be said about this miracle nut.
More information on the subject of Jamaican food can be had from the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus website.
To cover all the information on Jamaican "bush tea" on this website would surely take more time than I have available, so here, on this web page, are the most common ones that everyone is familiar with.
Of course there are many more herbs that are used for various things from menstrual problems to getting rid of ghosts that need to be covered, under another topic.
get more information too about Jamaican “bush tea,” if you subscribe to our e-
zine, Foodie Jamaican.