Butterfly pea flower tea is one of the most unique looking drinks in the world, and it has an indigo blue shade.
Despite not being well known in the West, this blue tea is far from being new, and it has been popular for centuries in South-East Asia.
However, just what is butterfly pea flower tea?
This article takes a look at this traditional Asian drink, its characteristics, and potential health benefits.
What Is Butterfly Pea Flower Tea?
Classed as a type of herbal tea—or ’tisane’—butterfly pea flower tea is a colorful tea drink.
This tea comes from the dried flower petals of the Clitoria ternatea plant, which is, interestingly, also known as ‘Asian pigeonwings.’
The tea is popular in South-East Asian countries such as Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, and many people call it ‘butterfly tea’ or ‘blue tea.’
Butterfly pea flower tea is naturally caffeine free, and it contains a range of polyphenols that give the drink its blue hue.
The drink imparts a deep blue color when steeped in hot water.
In recent years, the drink has become more popular (and more widely available) in the Western world.
How Does It Taste?
Despite the striking appearance of the drink, butterfly pea flower tea is not as unique in flavor.
All herbs and teas have their own unique taste, so it is difficult to describe accurately. However, butterfly pea flower tea tastes something between green tea and chamomile.
Overall, the drink has a slightly grassy taste, and it is neither sour nor bitter.
The flavor is pleasant, and the tea is enjoyable to drink.
Potential Health Benefits
Most teas contain a variety of chemical compounds known as polyphenols, which are thought to have potential benefits for human health.
In this section, we will look at some research on butterfly pea flower tea from human trials.
Additionally, we will also list the polyphenols the tea contains (and their potential benefits).
1) A Rich Source of Polyphenols
Most tea varieties contain a variety of polyphenols.
For example, in the case of black tea, the drink contains significant amounts of catechins.
The primary polyphenols in butterfly pea flower tea are anthocyanins (1, 2).
Foods like blueberries and red wine also contain these compounds, and they are famous for their blue-red pigmentation (3, 4).
Researchers believe that anthocyanins may have anti-inflammatory properties (5).
On this note, systematic reviews of randomized clinical trials have demonstrated that large intakes of anthocyanins can improve blood glucose control and markers of cardiovascular risk (6).
However, it is worth noting that these trials used much higher concentrations of anthocyanins than what is present in a cup of butterfly pea flower tea.
2) May Have a Beneficial Impact On Blood Glucose Levels
Studies suggest that compounds within butterfly pea flower tea have an inhibitory effect on alpha-amylase (7).
Alpha-amylase is an enzyme secreted by the pancreas into the small intestine (and also found in saliva) that breaks starch down into glucose (8).
As a result, the tea could potentially slow the digestion of carbohydrate, thus lowering the glycemic response to a carbohydrate-rich meal.
What Do Studies Say?
Interestingly, a randomized trial has looked into this potential mechanism.
In this study, participants drank one of five beverages (9);
- 50 grams of sugar in 400 ml of water
- One gram of butterfly tea flower extract with 400 ml of water
- Two grams of the extract in 400 ml of water
- One gram of the tea extract with 50 grams of sugar in 400 ml of water
- Two grams of the extract with 50 grams of sugar in 400 ml of water
Following the drinks, researchers monitored the postprandial (post-meal/food) blood glucose and insulin levels for 120 minutes.
Notably, the participants consuming sugar alongside butterfly pea extract had lower glucose and insulin responses than those drinking the sugar water alone.
In particular, the participants consuming two grams of the extract had “significantly lower” responses.
However, this trial was relatively small (15 participants), and there is little further research on this topic.
3) Butterfly Pea Flower Tea Is Caffeine Free
Caffeine is a stimulant that we can find in drinks like coffee and black tea.
While caffeine can have some unique benefits, such as energy and focus, some people may prefer a caffeine-free drink.
For example, some individuals have caffeine sensitivities and do better avoiding sources of the stimulant.
In contrast, other people may simply wish to avoid caffeine later in the day for optimal sleep quality (10, 11).
Either way, butterfly tea is an excellent option because it contains zero caffeine.
The color of butterfly pea flower tea isn’t the only unique thing about the drink; here are some more interesting facts.
The Tea Can Change Color
Interestingly, it is easy to change the color of the tea by changing the drink’s PH level.
For instance, adding some lemon juice will make the PH level more acidic. As a result, the tea will suddenly transform into a deep purple color.
While this is only a visual thing, it does look impressive. You can see the color change in action below;
All Kinds of “Blue Tea” Drinks Exist
As previously mentioned, butterfly pea flower tea is not so famous in the English-speaking world.
However, it is a commonplace drink in South-East Asia.
Not only is it drank as tea, but there are all kinds of different drinks containing butterfly pea flower.
- Blue tea latte: similar to the matcha/green tea latte that has recently become popular in the West. But the blue tea version.
- Butterfly pea cocktail: due to its attractive shade and color-changing properties, butterfly pea flower is a popular cocktail ingredient.
- Nam dok anchan: this drink (Thai name) is a typical drink offered in hotels throughout Thailand and Vietnam. Nam dok anchan features butterfly pea flower tea mixed with lemon and honey.
- Starbucks Drinks: the tea is so popular in South-East Asia that it even pops up on Starbucks drink menus.
Where To Buy
It may be difficult to find butterfly tea in typical grocery stores.
However, most larger tea stores should stock it.
The tea is also widely available online.
Butterfly pea flower tea has a pleasant taste, but the best thing about it has to be the appearance. Drinking something with a deep blue color has a novelty about it, and the color-changing trick is fun.
While the tea may, potentially, have a few health benefits, there is limited evidence. For this reason, it is probably better to think of any potential benefits as a bonus.
All in all, this blue tea is a tasty caffeine-free option, and it is worth trying at least once.
For more on herbal tea, see this guide to hibiscus.