It isn't clear when people first made herbal or flower drinks, but they've been doing it for hundreds of years, at least. The Chinese often mix chrysanthemum and jasmine with regular teas, and use an extensive range of plants for herbal brews. 'Western people use the term 'herbal tea' to refer to teas that are made from herbs, flowers, grass, fruit and plants,' says Alexandre Dambrines, managing director of the Natural Tea Company. 'There's no such thing as flower tea [although people use the term to refer to teas that have flowers as ingredients] - it's just a direct translation.' Unlike Chinese tea, the best herbal tea doesn't come from the same harvest location all the time. 'It's hard to tell the best origins for herbal teas,' Dambrines says. 'It all depends on the season, abundance and types, which affects the prices and qualities.' Generally, rose and mint from the Middle East, Turkey and Monaco are considered the best, while top-quality chamomile comes from Germany and Egypt. Herbal tea is simpler to make than other brews. After the flowers, fruits or herbs are picked, they're dried in the sun or a low-temperature fridge. And that's it. Types of herbal teas According to Natural Tea Company manager Susan Mak, herbal tea can be classified into three types: floral tea, fruit tea and brews of herbs and tea leaves. Rose buds are popular with Hong Kong women because they're said to help whiten skin, preserve beauty and prevent premature ageing. They're also said to help tighten the skin, speed cell renewal, detoxify the body and regulate hormonal imbalance. Chamomile is a flower that helps promote restful sleep, relieve stress and calm and soothe the skin and body. It's also known for relieving nausea, morning sickness and indigestion. Lemongrass doesn't look appealing, but it alleviates stomach and intestinal discomfort and reduces cholesterol levels. It's a good drink for warding off colds or flu. 'It helps those with breathing problems, and relieves congestion and coughing,' Mak says. Lavender has a strong taste and helps relaxation, promote restful sleep and relieve tension, depression, fatigue, muscle spasms and headaches. Rose-hip is an excellent supplement for skin. 'Drink rose-hip brews if you have scars or tired-looking skin because it's rich in Vitamin C, which helps boost [the skin],' Mak says. 'It has the highest Vitamin C level of all herbal teas. The Vitamin C in a cup of rose-hip is equal to that in three oranges.' Apart from having Vitamins A, B C and E, rose-hip has high levels of calcium and iron. It eases headaches and dizziness and prevents bladder infections. Hibiscus is often blended with other fruit teas. It gives the brew a deep red colour and is rich in vitamins. It strengthens the immune system, nourishes facial tissues and helps urination. Blue mallow is bright blue, helps eliminate drunkenness and foul breath, and resolves bronchial diseases. Fruit teas with ingredients such as apple, apricot, peach and strawberry are rich in vitamins and help boost immunity. How to prepare it Herbal tea is simpler to brew than Chinese tea. Normally, you just need to add hot water to the dried flowers or fruit and let it steep. 'For bigger flowers such as roses, wait a longer time for the flower to blossom,' says Relaxing Tea House chief executive assistant Anna Yip Shun-yan. 'There are some essences inside the buds and it takes time for them to come out.' Sugar or honey can be mixed with the tea to sweeten it. You can also blend different flowers or fruits together according to the taste and the health benefits you want. But for ingredients such as lavender and chamomile that have a stronger taste, don't add too much or brew too long because the drink may be too strong, Yip says. She also says it's better to avoid brewing a big pot of tea because the brew will become bitter when the flowers are soaked for a long time. For a better flavour, warm the tea pot with a candle. How to store it Bear in mind that you shouldn't store floral and fruit teas together because the flowers' leaves absorbs smell, whereas the fruits' emit it. So, if you don't want an apple taste in your rosebud tea, keep the two sets of leaves separate. Because Hong Kong is humid and hot, it's better to store the teas in an air-tight container, away from sunlight, or in the fridge. Where to find it Herbal Garden has more than 80 types of fruit and floral teas. 801B Trend Centre, 29 Cheung Lee Street, Chai Wan. Inquiries: 2557 3066, or order at www.herbalgarden.com.hk . The Natural Tea Company has a wide range of imported herbal teas that can be sampled before purchase. There are stores in city'super, Sogo and Great Food Hall. Inquiries: 2544 6006. Relaxing Tea House has 'herb refiners' in its stores to make suggestions for customers about which type of tea they should try. It has 28 herbal teas. A cup costs $28 and up. The newest shop is at R1, 7/F Island Beverley, 1 Great George Street, Causeway Bay. Inquiries: 2881 7281.