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How to Brew The Perfect Pot of Herbal Tea

photo of a cup of perfectly brewed herb tea

 

“Tea… a magic word that conjures up fantastic tales of romance and poetry; of clipper ships and trade routes; of intrigue and revolution. It is ‘the Plant of Heaven’ the ‘froth of liquid; it is the ‘pernicious weed’ the ‘base exotick’.

It will keep you awake, it will put you to sleep. It will cure whatever ails you, it will cause your early demise. Some like it hot, some like it cold” – herbalist Edna Cashmore.

Yes, there’s a knack to brewing that perfect pot of herbal tea. Tea with appealing aroma and satisfying taste – meaning you’re making it purely for the enjoyment not the medicinal value. Tea that tastes like ambrosia not like last night’s dishwater. Tea with the strength to refresh you without calling to mind a dose of drain cleaner.

 

So, how do you achieve the above? It’s quite simple. You just need 5 things:

  1. An adventurous spirit.
  2. Your sense of taste.
  3. Proper brewing utensils.
  4. The right know-how.
  5. A handful of tried and tested herb tea recipes.

An adventurous spirit

Need I say more? If you can’t picture yourself trying anything else than the same old brew you’ve been taking for the past decade, herb teas are not for you.

Your Sense of Taste

Unlike English or China tea, herbal teas don’t darken as they become stronger. They remain light green or amber. Judge the strength of your brew by taste rather than sight.

Proper Brewing Utensils

You need a teapot (china, earthenware, glass, silver or stainless steel), teacups, an infuser for immersing the herbs in the water, a strainer, a mortar and pestle to crush roots and seeds just before brewing, and a rolling pin to bruise fresh herbs.

The Right Know-howtwo cups of herb tea

Step 1: As a general guideline use 1 teaspoon dried herbs or 1 tablespoon fresh herbs to 1 cup water.

Step 2: Fill your kettle with cold water, which retains more oxygen for fuller flavour. As soon as the kettle starts warming rinse your teapot to heat it. Switch off your kettle the moment it starts boiling. When using fresh herbs to make your brew, you actually need to switch the kettle off just before it starts boiling.

Step 3: Place your herbs in the teapot. Either loose or in the infuser.

Tip: Crush dried herbs to release their delicate flavours. Bruise fresh herbs slightly with a rolling pin.

Step 4: Pour the just boiled water over the herbs. Don’t pour boiling water over delicate fresh herbs.

Step 5: Allow your brew to steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Use patience and your sense of taste to determine when the brew is just right. If you want your herb tea to be stronger use more herb, not more steeping time. You don’t want the herbs to start releasing tannins. Tannin is great for curing leather, and for certain disorders, but it tastes awful.

Step 6: Strain and serve. You can add some honey (or Stevia) and lime or lemon. No sugar, milk or cream.

Please note that this is not always the correct way of making a medicinal tea (infusion). It describes how to make a herbal tea purely for enjoyment.

gourmet soup guide

A Handful of Tried and Tested Herbal Tea Recipes

Single-herb teas (using just one herb) can be lovely, but you will be delighted with your results if you combine a few herbs.

If you have your own herb garden you can create some pretty special herbal tea blends. And they will have the distinction of being your creations, brewed from plants you’ve grown and processed yourself.

Try a two herb tea blend such as marjoram and mint, or sage and lemon balm.

A popular three herb blend is 3 parts thyme, 1 part rosemary and 1 part spearmint. It’s also an effective remedy for nightmares and hangovers. Another old time favourite is equal parts mint, sage and bergamot.

Nothing beats a multi-herb-and-spice-blend. Here’s a good seed blend you might like to try. The anise and fennel give it a liquorice taste, while the coriander and caraway add extra tang – refreshing with a pleasant aftertaste. It also has beneficial properties. Especially if you are watching your weight. It’s not a weight loss cure though. Sorry.

Combine equal quantities of all 4 seeds. Measure one teaspoon of the mixture for each cup of tea. Crush and steep 10 minutes.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

download graphic for flavour building cheat sheets

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Chive and Blue Cheese Butter

Any steak becomes even more luxurious topped with a dollop of this gently tangy Chive and Blue Cheese Butter. The herb butter also goes well with lamb chops and chicken. I love to spread it on crackers served with preserved figs, or the serve it with freshly baked bread.
chive and blue cheese butter

Chive and Blue Cheese Butter
 
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  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
  • a pinch of pepper
  • a dash of Worcester sauce
  • 1 teaspoon brandy
  1. Blend all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, cover and store in refrigerator to allow the flavours to develop.
  2. Soften at room temperature before serving.

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Pork Fillet Roast with Dried Fruit

pork roast with dried fruitThis recipe by Lynn Roblin is a great way to bring out the best flavour in pork.

The dried fruits go well with the pork and increase the fiber content.

Pork can handle all the sweet spices, including allspice, cinnamon and clove so feel free to play around with these if you’d like to spice this recipe up a bit.

I like serving this recipe with rice.

Pork Fillet Roast with Dried Fruit
 
  • 750g pork fillet
  • 50ml brown sugar
  • 50ml orange marmalafe
  • 50ml beef stock
  • 50ml red wine
  • 50ml chopped dates
  • 50ml chopped dried apricots
  • 50ml raisins
  1. Place fillet in roasting pan. In a small saucepan, heat sugar and marmalade, brush over pork.
  2. Add stock, wine, dates, apricots and raisins to the roasting pan.
  3. Bake, covered, for 35 to 45 minutes, or until required doneness is reached.
  4. To serve, slice meat and spoon sauce and fruit over meat.

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Healthy Tomato Salsa Recipe

This mild but addictive zesty tomato salsa is low in kilojoules and loaded with healthy phyto-nutrients and lycopene. Various studies revealed that men that eat lots of tomatoes had a greatly reduced risk of prostate cancer due to the lycopene in tomatoes.

This tomato salsa is a delicious match with any braai meal, it also adds a bright note to any Mexican dish.

I prefer to use ripe (red) Jalapeno peppers but you can use any chili pepper you like. And if you don’t have fresh peppers, dried peppers will do just as well.

Healthy Tomato Salsa Photo
A zesty tomato salsa boasting loads of cancer fighting properties.
Healthy Tomato Salsa
 
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Serves: 4-6
  • 3 - 4 ripe tomatoes (preferable vine ripened), diced
  • 4 spring onions, sliced finely
  • ½ cup cilantro (fresh coriander leaves, aka danja or dhania), chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped
  • 1 Jalapeno chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seed, ground
  • ½ teaspoon cumin, ground
  • ¼ cup lime juice (or lemon juice)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Cilantro to garnish
  1. Mix all the ingredients in a small serving bowl.
  2. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
  3. Refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes to allow the flavours to develop.
  4. Garnish with fresh cilantro just before serving.
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Vichyssoise with Fresh Italian Parsley

Soup is the ultimate comfort food. Nothing else can send so much rich aroma into the air, and nothing else so effectively makes every house into a home.

What’s more…

“A good soup is the ultimate sign of a fabulous cook. And despite that, soup is the most forgiving thing you’ll ever make, the easiest kind of cooking.” – Ruth Reichl

vichyssoise soup with fresh parsley
Serve vichyssoise as cold as possible in chilled serving bowls.

With that in mind here’s the recipe  for our herbed version of Vichyssoise – a cold creamy leek and potato soup. It’s a great summer soup and it never fails to impress our guests.

According to Wikipedia its cold serving temperature is often used for comedy value in entertainment. For example, in the 1992 movie Batman Returns, Bruce Wayne is surprised at its temperature, saying “It’s cold!” to which his butler, Alfred responds that “It’s supposed to be cold.”

Similarly, on an All in the Family episode, Archie Bunker’s neighbour brings over a dish of vichyssoise for dinner. Before tasting it, Archie brings a spoon up towards his mouth, blowing on the soup to cool it, and then remarks as he tastes it, “Boy, this soup is cold, and I hardly blew on it at all!”

Cold dulls our sense of taste, so vichyssoise, require more seasoning than a warm potato-leek soup. Taste the vichyssoise again just before serving and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Also remember that cold soups should have a thinner consistency than hot soups. To achieve this in Vichyssoise we use a higher ratio of liquid to main ingredients.

Vichyssoise with Fresh Italian Parsley
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
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Recipe type: Soups
Serves: 4
  • 250g leeks, white part only
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, chopped
  • 250g potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 900ml chicken stock
  • 175ml whipping cream
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
  • Paprika to garnish.
  1. Split the leeks lengthwise and wash well to remove all sand and grit. Slice thinly.
  2. Melt butter over low heat in a saucepan and add the leeks, celery and parsley. Sweat without browning until they are soft. Stir occasionally. About 15 minutes.
  3. Add the diced potatoes and chicken stock, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
  4. Simmer, partially covered, until tender, about 45 minutes.
  5. Puree the soup in batches in a food processor or blender and strain through a sieve.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool to room temperature.
  7. Blend in ½ the whipping cream.
  8. Adjust the seasoning.
  9. Place in refrigerator to cool for at least 2 hours.
  10. Serve in well chilled bowls. Softly spoon the remaining cream into the centre of each bowl and garnish lavishly with the chives. Then sprinkle lightly with paprika to add colour.

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Parsley Tonic Boost Recipe

Parsley Juice Tonic Boost
This recipe with parsley is an excellent tonic and helps to protect you against a number of ailments.

Parsley is a real nutritional powerhouse and one of the easiest and quickest ways to really get its full nutritional benefit is to use it in herb drinks combined with other superfoods.

If you don’t have a juicer, a food processor or blender will do just as well. Dilute the tonic with a little water.

You can also take a shortcut and buy your veggie and fruit juices ready-made. Add your finely chopped parsley and process quickly in your food processor. Read the labels of the juices you purchase and make sure that they do not contain any sweeteners, preservatives, colourings or flavourings.

Add the parsley, sprigs and all. The sprigs contain heaps of fibre and nutrients.

Parsley Passion Recipe
 
This recipe supplies your daily requirement of vitamin C, more than three times the daily requirement of vitamin A, more than six times your requirement of vitamin K and heaps of folate to boot. And it's all in a natural form.
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Serves: 1-2
  • ½ cup freshly chopped parsley
  • 3-5 large carrots or some pineapple
  • 2 apples
  • 2 cabbage or spinach leaves
  1. Dice all the ingredients into small cubes and process in your food processor or juicer.
  2. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 Calories: 187 Fat: 1% Carbohydrates: 16% Sodium: 4% Fiber: 42% Protein: 3g Cholesterol: 0%