Popular in Thailand and Southeast Asia, this butterfly pea tea (or blue pea tea) has a gorgeous blue color and mild sweet, floral taste. It makes a delightful warm tea or refreshingly cold drink.
To make the tea, simply brew the dried butterfly pea flowers in hot water for 10 minutes before straining, sweetening and serving. If you add a little acid like lime juice, the vibrant blue color will turn into a gorgeous purple drink. It’s so pretty!
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Ingredients for butterfly pea tea
To make this tea, you will need:
- butterfly pea flowers: I used dried, organic butterfly pea flowers which you can get on Amazon here. They have these beautiful deep blue petals and retain a lot of their floral, slightly sweet, earthy smell. Of course, you can use fresh flowers here as well – a quarter cup should equate to one tablespoon of the dried flowers.
- sweetener: this is optional but I highly recommend adding a little sweetener to your tea. It just adds a pleasing flavor to the drink. For this tea, I used brown sugar.
- lime juice: this is also optional. When the acid is added, a color change happens in the tea where it turns from a sapphire blue to a deep purple. The taste stays virtually unchanged.
Equipment for this recipe
You don’t need any special equipment for this recipe but, here, I did use my trusty teapot with tea infuser. It makes steeping the butterfly pea flowers so simple to do and takes all the hassle out of clean up. I’ve used the teapot in many of my tea recipes like chamomile, lavender and more.
How to make butterfly pea tea
Step 1: Bring the water to a boil using your preferred method – mine is with the kettle but you can use a saucepan or the microwave.
Step 2: Add the dried butterfly pea flowers to the tea infuser or teapot or saucepan.
Step 3: Pour boiling water over the flowers. The water will start turning a light cerulean color almost immediately.
Step 4: Leave to steep for 10 minutes. The longer you leave the flowers to steep the darker the tea will become. Here, within just 10 minutes, the tea had a dark blue sapphire color. Isn’t it pretty?
Step 5: Strain and sweeten. You can serve it hot or over ice.
Step 6: This step is optional. If you want a more purple drink, mix in a little lime or lemon juice. The color change is almost immediate, and the more juice you add, the lighter the purple will become.
Butterfly pea tea benefits
Butterfly pea is a great natural substitute for blue artificial food coloring and can be used to color foods from rice to desserts.
As for the health benefits of the tea, butterfly pea tea has long been used in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine. This 2008 study notes, in Ayurveda, butterfly pea is believed to have sedating, relaxing, anti-stress, anti-anxiety, anti-depressant and memory enhancing benefits. These benefits are attributed to the compounds that give the tea its color, namely triterpenoids, flavanol glycosides and anthocyanins (which are all antioxidants).
The study also explored the pharmacological benefits of the tea and suggested it has antioxidant, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, muscle-relaxing, pain-relieving, anti-diabetic and blood platelet aggregation-inhibiting properties.
However, there have been few clinical studies looking into these benefits. This small clinical study from 2018 proved that, after drinking the tea with sugar, participants saw antioxidant and lower blood glucose levels than expected. This proves anti-diabetic effects of the butterfly pea.
A Thai study from 2021 tested the effects of the flowers on overweight participants after enjoying a high fat meal. The results found the post-meal triglyceride and free fatty acids levels in the participants’ blood were lower when the tea was used.
And another 2021 study deep dived into the antioxidants present in the tea and their benefits. Lab and animal studies were cited showing the flowers’ antibacterial, antifungal, anti-cancer and even anti-allergy effects.
Of course, as with all teas, enjoy this one in moderation.
Butterfly pea tea recipe
Butterfly pea tea with dried flowers
- 1 tbsp butterfly pea flowers (dried)
- 2 cups water
- 1 tsp lime juice (optional)
- 1 tsp sugar (optional)
- Bring water to a boil using a kettle, saucepan, etc (approx. 5 minutes).
- Add flowers to a teapot with infuser or large mug.
- Pour boiling water over the flowers.
- Set aside to steep for 10 minutes.
- Sweeten (optional).
- Add lime juice (optional) for a color change.
- Serve hot or cold.