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The January blues are upon us. As health kick regimes and detoxes of all varieties are forced down our throats on a daily basis, all we want to do is hibernate under the duvet until it's warm enough to leave the house, without fearing hypothermia and an overwhelming sense of depression.
Chin up! For there is one thing that we can turn to in order to help us through this struggle, one thing whose warm embrace never fails to take away those wintry blues and sooth our stresses without costing us a bomb and several hours of penance at the gym: a good old cuppa cha. January is international tea month, and whether you're a fan of the classic English Breakfast or an advocate of some variation on a super duper, very berry, zingy zen infused concoction, a hot brew has been proven to put you in a cheerier mood. Dr Simon Moore, psychology lecturer at London Metropolitan University, comments on the effects of tactile contact with a hot drink: "it's basic conditioning - warm sensations are nicer than cold sensations and if you feel something nice you transpose it on to something else."
Scientists suggest that tea can help with weight loss, protect against UV rays, keep the body hydrated (despite the caffeine) and, as it's full of antioxidants, can help protect against numerous diseases, including many cancers.
Many of us looking for a health kick enjoy a cup or two of green or white tea, which have long been used as part of detoxes and diets, owing to their ability to boost the metabolism. However, many medical studies have shown that to feel the real benefits of these teas, we ought to be drinking up to ten cups a day.
As a nation, Britain drinks 60.2 billion cups of tea a year, so hop on board, and put the kettle on, love. For those of us stubbornly refusing to surrender the calories this January, here's a recipe for some delicious cupcakes to accompany your brew of choice ...
Earl Grey cupcakes with lemon buttercream
500ml whole milk
6 Earl Grey teabags
1 tsp vanilla extract
375g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp Salt
500g icing sugar
6 tablespoons Earl Grey infused milk (see technique)
1 tsp lemon extract (or 1 tsp of lemon juice)
1. Heat the milk in a pan until steaming and bubbles have formed.
2. Then add the teabags, cover with a tightly fitting lid and leave to cool completely. Squeeze the teabags and measure 250ml and 3 tablespoons of the infused milk to use in the cakes, put the rest aside for the icing.
3. Beat together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla essence.
4. Add the remaining ingredients to the cake mixture, alternating between the remaining dry ingredients and the infused milk, until smooth.
5. Fill 24 cupcake cases 2/3 full with the mixture, and bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes at 190degc.
6. To make the icing, whisk together all the ingredients until light and fluffy, top or pipe the cupcakes with the icing once they are completely cool. Enjoy!
If you're feeling experimental, why not try swapping the Earl Grey tea with another black tea of your choice, such as a Chai blend, Ceylon or an English Breakfast? See photo for decoration ideas...