I am a Caribbean girl, so nothing makes me feel more at home than the smell of spices as they emanate from my
cup of tea after a long day. Today’s choice of Spice is the Twigs Naturals Bayleaf tea, they use the West Indian
bay leaf (pimenta racemosa) which is much more fragrant and aromatic than its Turkish, Indonesian, Californian, or
Indian cousins and takes me straight to the skirt tails of my grandmother as she whips up a batch of hot grated chocolate tea
on a Sunday morning, and she adds the two bay leaves that make the tea just right. Mmmm, as I pour the boiling water into
my favourite teacup, its flavour is intense and highly spiced, with complex notes of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg
along with hints of vanilla and cardamom, I can’t wait to take that first sip.
My grandmother was from Tobago, and to ensure that she always had a readily available supply of her herbs and spices, she
had planted, many moons ago, a bay leaf tree in her backyard. As a child, I would rub the leaves between my fingers and the
distinctive scent would remain on my fingers for hours. Her “spice tree”, as she called it was quite tall and
flourished in our West Indian climate of hot sun and fertile rains. The leaves of the tree vary in sizes, from 2 to 5
inches in height, with a span of about 2 ½ inches. The thick leaves are shiny and vary in the shades of green when
on the tree, with the darker, more robust leaves providing a more robust flavour. But fear not, if you visit your
local market and do not use your leaves when they are green, the dried leaves still pack a punch and can be used in
either your teas or in your cooking.
Soups and stews in Caribbean kitchens are incomplete without bay leaves, however, like many other parts of the
world, rice dishes and porridge also benefit from the addition of this species of plant from the myrtle family, a flavour-
filled relative of allspice. According to my granny, a little bay leaf goes a long way and she said that a cup of bay leaf tea
was good for blood pressure, belly pain and its painkiller properties have eased many a headache in her time.
Although bay leaves are a prized possession in the West Indian kitchen, I like to leave a few in my cupboards to serve as an
air freshener, and I’ve also heard that they can act as a really great insect repellant…so far so good, my pantry is bug-free
and spicey!
Two minutes up. Tea steeped, now it is time to sit back, relax and enjoy my spiced cup of Twigs Naturals Bayleaf Tea!