Eat To Live: Cannabis tea for two?

By JULIA WATSON, UPI Food Writer   |   June 27, 2006 at 8:08 PM

LONDON, June 27 (UPI) -- Get your taste buds ready for a whole ream of new flavors. If the predictions of research analysts Mintel are right, it's out with standards like vanilla and chocolate and in with exotica you may not know how to pronounce.

Foodies who follow the fashions of high-end restaurants in New York and San Francisco are probably familiar with the Japanese citrus fruit yuzu, even if they haven't actually had any.

But açai, pronounced 'ah-sah-ee' (apparently another sour)? And pomelo, a Quatermass version of the grapefruit? From Southeast Asia, it's the source of yet a further sour tang.

These and other uncommon flavors could be seeping into a bottled tea near you.

Highly unlikely to make the transition, however, is the flavor in a tea sold in 25 countries in Europe and just launched in the United Kingdom: hemp-blossom syrup.

C-Ice was developed by the Austrians. Although the words "sweet cannabis tea" are bannered on the label, it doesn't actually contain the government-agitating THC, the chemical that delivers marijuana's psychotropic effects.

What it does deliver, the UK commercial director told NutraIngredients.com, is a natural immune enhancer. Apparently it contains protein, omega oils, amino acids, enzymes, vitamins and minerals, along with the antioxidant properties of the black tea that it flavors.

Members of a therapy group for sufferers of multiple sclerosis in a town north of London have been drinking the stuff for the past three months. It seems that between 69 and 75 percent of them say it has helped their symptoms, though C-Ice's commercial director does admit that this might be because they were hoping it would.

Regular Brits may be reluctant to swallow the idea of hemp as a health ingredient. Certainly it's wonderful fodder for the country's scandal-mongering, alarmist tabloid press.

The possibility of it appearing on supermarket shelves in the U.S seems even less likely. And not just because of the already established resistance by officialdom to the suggestion that MS sufferers and others should be prescribed undoctored cannabis to relieve some of their symptoms.

Food products that trumpet added boosts of vitamins to promote general health haven't been doing nearly as well in the United States as they have in Europe and Japan.

Prebiotics, which are healthy non-digestible food substances, and inulin, both of which are said to aid digestion, go down well in Europe. But they haven't caught on in the United States

Europeans have also taken to the Glycemic Index on labeling with enthusiasm. This ranks carbohydrates for their immediate effect on blood glucose levels.

Lynn Dornblaser, an analyst at Mintel, told BrandWeek.com, "American consumers don't seem to have the same 'food-equals-good-health' mindset that Europeans or Japanese have." She also made the point that marketers are forced to move more slowly in launching healthier products, "due to FDA regulatory limits that other countries don't have."

So American food producers are likely to switch their focus to specific ingredients targeted at particular health benefits. Kellogg's Frosties, for example, formulated to contain energy-boosting, muscle-building amino acids, according to FoodNavigator.com, are selling very well in Japan.

To ready yourself for the teas with the unusual new flavors, and drinks with health benefits, try this ginger tea. It's refreshing and said to help digestion, improve circulation and keep colds at bay.

--4 cups water

--2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled

--juice of 2 lemons

--honey to taste

--Thinly slice the ginger.

--Boil the water in a pan, then add the ginger.

--Cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes.

--Let the ginger steep in it until the tea is cold, then strain and add the lemon and honey and more water if you prefer to reduce the strength of flavor.

--In the winter, this is just as good hot.

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E-mail: consumerhealth@upi.com

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