A mild-tasting, caffeine-free alternative to green tea
‘Tea’ to the less enlightened among us most often means a mesh bag of black leaves, brewed in boiling water, with milk and or sugar. In Cyprus, they’re much more inventive. “We have a broad definition of tea or what we call ‘mountain tea’,” explains Nadia at Elpiniki. “It might be wild sage, or whatever you can get your hands on. My dad has lots of olive groves and it makes perfect sense to use the leaves to make tea. If you live in a village, or I suppose anywhere for that matter, you want to make sure you use everything that’s available to you. Olive leaf is something they’ve used for a very long time—it’s supposed to have a lot of health-giving qualities, so a lot of people drink it.”
The tea’s appeal doesn’t stop at hot drinks, either. “It’s really versatile. You can use olive leaf tea in the same way you would dried mint in salads,” Nadia continues. “That’s something we’d like to introduce at Elpiniki next summer.” At the moment, true to the ethicality that pervades all that Elpiniki does, it comes in biodegradable pockets served up in colourful mugs to drink at the stall—though you could always bring your own keep-cup, of course. “It’s really interesting. Typically, people ask for a cup of green tea and we tell them, “We don’t do that, but we do have olive leaf tea—we’ve had some converts, that’s for sure,” Nadia smiles. “It has such a pure flavour—it doesn’t have any of that aftertaste of earthiness that some teas can have. It’s crystal clean, really good on the palate.”
Tender leaves and buds
The leaves come from fellow Greek trader Oliveology, grown on its organic farm in Sparta, in the Peloponnese region of southern Greece. The tender leaves and buds of the koroneiki olive tree are handpicked and dried naturally, meaning it’s both seasonal and in short supply. “People think that because it’s made from olive leaves and flowers that it tastes like olives, but it does not,” says Iffy on the Oliveology stall. It comes loose and doesn’t need straining. “If you accidentally eat the leaves, it’s fine!” Simply tip half a teaspoon into a cup and top with either boiling or cold water—it makes a beautifully cooling ice tea with a wedge of lemon and a spoon of sweet wildflower honey—then leave to steep for three to 10 minutes, letting the leaves naturally sink to the bottom.
“We say it’s like a mild version of green tea,” says Iffy. “The main thing is that it does not have any caffeine, so you can drink it at any time of day.”