Orchids are one of my favourite plants; once you get location and planting right they will flower for months and continue to do so year after year. Mine live happily on a windowsill that never gets direct light, they hate to sit in water and you do need Orchid compost to ensure that air can circulate around there roots. With over 20,000 species of orchids and 100,000 hybrids growing throughout the world, these beautiful exotic flowers have been a part of many cultures and have been used in a variety of beauty treatments and medicines. This post is specifically about Tea and Orchids as medicine but will do a beauty post next time. I was also more interested in Orchids other than the Vanilla Orchid and wondered as I love Orchids so much if you can get Orchid Tea and if they have any medicinal benefits? This is what I could find.
Mexico and the Aztecs; Apparently the Aztecs drank Orchid tea as a strength potion when going into battle; they saw the plant as a symbol of power and strength.
China; Still used in Chinese medicine, the orchid is thought to improve eye sight, help to regain strength and boost the immune system. The Chinese continue to drink orchid tea. Orchid Flower Tea is thought to diminish nightmares, replenish the kidney and lower blood pressure.
Europe; Possibly due to the shape of their roots and the fact that no one was entirely sure for a long time how they reproduced as late as Victorian times, Orchids were used in love potions and were thought to help with testicular problems and boost libido. I have found some texts that recommend eating sliced fresh orchid root to boost the sex drive. I wonder would this taste a bit like Vanilla?
Sahlep; This is the dried tuber of Orchids and was drank across the Ottoman Empire and in the UK right up to Oliver Cromwell times before coffee was introduced. Sahlep is still used across Asia Minor, Germany, Afghanistan and Turkey to flavour Ice Cream and Drinks. Sahlep cannot be created synthetically or farmed as opposed to Vanilla from the Vanilla Orchid so it fell out of favour, I expect they must have a similar taste, but is still used in these areas.
In conclusion Orchid Flower Tea seems to be rare and usually harvested from wild orchids so I would be reluctant to drink it to be honest, unless I knew it had been harvested/grown responsibly but I’d like to know the difference in flavour from Sahlep to Vanilla. I think you can still get it from specialist Chinese suppliers and it has a natural vanilla like taste. I would say far better is to try a Honey Orchid Oolong to sample the delicate ‘orchid’ flavour, here are some recommendations at varying price brackets and I also included the ‘Not on the High Street’ tea by ‘L’Orchidee Boutique Patisserie’ just because they are an absolute thing of beauty – like the orchid itself. Just look at them, or grow one yourself they are just beautiful, if someone produced a tea pot with that in I’m not sure I’d care what it tasted like.
Reference and more info; http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/content/98/9/625.full