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Butterfly pea flower tea

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Butterfly pea flower Tea
Butterfly-pea flower tea brewing in a pot
Alternative namesButterfly-pea leaf tea
TypeHerbal tea
Region or stateSouth East Asia
Cooking time
Serving temperatureHot or cold[2]
Main ingredientsButterfly-pea flowers[1]
Ingredients generally useddried lemongrass
Variationsnam dok anchan[1]

Butterfly pea flower tea, commonly known as blue tea, is a caffeine-free herbal tea, or tisane, beverage made from a decoction or infusion of the flower petals or whole flower of the Clitoria ternatea plant. Clitoria ternatea is also known as butterfly pea, blue pea, Aprajita, Cordofan pea, Blue Tea Flowers or Asian pigeonwings.

Derived from a plant that is common to most South East Asian countries, butterfly pea flower tea has been brewed for centuries but only recently been introduced to tea drinkers outside the indigenous area. Butterfly pea flower tea gains its distinctive tint from the deep blue color of the petals that has made the plant a popular dye for centuries. One of the aspects of the tea is the fact that the liquid changes color based on the pH level of the substance added to it, for instance, adding lemon juice to the tea will turn it purple.

Clitoria flowers or blue tea flowers are used for their supposed medicinal properties in Ayurveda.


Clitoria ternatea, also referred to as the butterfly pea, blue pea, aprajita, Cordofan pea or Asian pigeonwings, is a plant from the family Fabaceae and is commonly found throughout South East Asia.[3] The bright blue petals from the flowers of the butterfly-pea plant have been used as an ingredient in herbal tea drinks throughout the region for centuries as well as used in cooking. The blue flower imparts its blue color when steeped in warm or hot water, leading it to being used as a dye, as well as to add color to various foods such as the rice dish nasi kerabu.[4]

Vietnamese woman collecting butterfly pea flowers in her nón lá

In Thailand and Vietnam the butterfly blue pea flower tea is commonly mixed with honey and lemon for a drink usually served after dinner, or a refreshment at hotels and spas, a preparation called nam dok anchan in Thai.[1] The nam dok anchan drink has been described as being a typical local drink like chamomile tea is in other parts of the world.[1] The tea is found in both hot and cold varieties, where the cold version is often mixed with honey, mint, cinnamon, passion fruit, and ginger.[2]

For centuries, butterfly pea flower tea was only known in South East Asia but in recent years, through the proliferation of travel shows and food blogging, it has become known outside its area of origin.[2] It is not readily available in supermarkets, primarily offered by specialty online retailers,[5] although negotiations have been going on to introduce the tea in Whole Foods Market in the United States.[6]

The flavor of the tea has been described as "earthy and woody—more similar to a fine green tea than it is to Blue Curaçao or Jolly Ranchers" in a January 2016 article on the Bon Appétit website.[1]

Popularity and color properties[edit]

Two cups of butterfly-pea flower tea. The one on the right has had lime juice added, making it turn purple.

One of the most distinctive characteristics of butterfly pea flower tea, and other drinks that use butterfly pea flower extract, is that it will change color when the pH balance changes. A deep blue tea will turn purple with the addition of lemon juice, turning a deeper shade of purple the more lemon juice is added.[7][8] Mixed with fuchsia roselle hibiscus leaves the tea will turn a bright red color.[1][8]

A popular use of the tea is in cocktails where the showmanship of the cocktail making incorporates the instantaneous color change in front of the patron that ordered the drink.[9] Other uses included cocktails or punch bowls where the tea is frozen into ice cubes, causing the drink to change color as the ice cube dissolves leading to what has been labeled as a "mood ring cocktail".[6][9][10]

As of September 2, 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration declared the additive "butterfly pea flower extract" to be exempt from certification and safe for use. [11]

Color change in different pH of Clitoria ternatea extract[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Goldberg, Elyssa (January 31, 2016). "The Science Behind This Mesmerizing Color-Changing Tea". Bon Appétit. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Reid, Marian (October 16, 2012). "Be good to yourself in Chiang Mai". BBC Travel. the British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved July 3, 2016.
  3. ^ Fantz, Paul R. (1991). "Ethnobotany of Clitoria (Leguminosae)". Economic Botany. 45 (4). New York Botanical Garden Press: 511–20. doi:10.1007/BF02930715. JSTOR 4255394. S2CID 38939748.
  4. ^ Bindloss, Joe; Brash, Celeste (June 1, 2008). Kuala Lumpur, Melaka & Penang. Melbourne, Australia: Lonely Planet. p. 43. ISBN 9781741044850. Retrieved July 3, 2016.
  5. ^ "Kennen sie schon... Blauen Tee?". MyWay (in German) (September, 2014). Bauer Media Group.
  6. ^ a b Simonson, Robert (June 30, 2016). "A Mood-Ring Ingredient Makes Cocktails Change Color". The New York Times. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  7. ^ Pfau, Bettina. "Der Sommerdrink, der die Farbe wechselt" (in German). Glamour. Archived from the original on June 24, 2019. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  8. ^ a b Pantazi, Chloe (February 26, 2016). "Watch this tea dramatically change from deep blue to vibrant red with a squeeze of lemon". Business Insider Deutchsland. Archived from the original on September 30, 2018. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  9. ^ a b Eisen, Emily (September 3, 2015). "Mission Chinese Just Reinvented the Tiki Cocktail (Hint: It Changes Colors)". Bon Appétit. Retrieved July 3, 2016.
  10. ^ Lu-Lien Tan, Cheyl (June 29, 2016). "How to Pack the Right Punch". wsj.com. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  11. ^ "§ 73.69 Butterfly Pea Flower Extract". National Archives Code of Federal Regulations. October 5, 2021. Retrieved October 20, 2021.
  12. ^ Kuntapas Kungsuwan, Kanjana Singh (2014). "Effects of pH and anthocyanin concentrationon color and antioxidant activity of Clitoria ternatea extract". Food and Applied Bioscience. 2: 3146. doi:10.14456/FABJ.2014.3.