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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.

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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.

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Refreshing Mint Tea Recipe

In summer there is nothing as refreshing as mint tea. I often make iced tea by substituting the green tea in the recipe below with rooibos, letting it cool and then adding a few ice cubes.

In North African countries sweet mint tea is served everywhere for almost every occasion.  According to Georgeanne Brennan, author of The Mediterranean Herb Cookbook, it is a ritual rather than just a beverage. It is regularly offered and sipped in cafes, in offices, shops and homes. It is the beverage of both family gatherings and business meetings. Different countries have different versions, but in general green tea is served with a large measure of mint, either fresh or dried.Refreshing Mint Tea

Refreshing Mint Tea
 
By:
Recipe type: Beverages
Serves: 6
  • ½ cup fresh mint leaves, slightly bruised/crushed
  • 2 teaspoons green tea
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • about 6 tablespoons honey or sugar
  1. Rinse a teapot with hot water and put the mint and tea leaves into it. Pour in the boiling water, cover, and let steep for about 5 minutes.
  2. Pour into small glasses, using a strainer if necessary, and stir about 1 tablespoon honey or sugar into each glass.
  3. Serve at once.

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Making Lavender Sugar

lavender sugar
Lavender sugar is for the discerning sweet tooth.

If you have a discerning sweet tooth, you’ll love lavender sugar.

Like the scent of rose geranium, the smell of lavender reminds me of my grandmother’s garden, kitchen, closets and drawers. She had it tucked away everywhere.

She also infused sugar with the perfume of lavender and used it in shortbread, sprinkled over a sponge cake or stirred into berries.

I’ve expanded on granny’s uses a bit and love using it with pancakes, cheese cakes and cakes. It also makes a nice gift to show your appreciation and can also been made into gifts for wedding guests.

The recipe is still granny’s and couldn’t be simpler:

  1. Pick your lavender flowers and stalks and let them wilt slightly to ensure that they are completely dry.
  2. Pack them in a jar and layer with sugar, either normal granulated white sugar or castor sugar for a finer texture.
  3. Seal and decorate the top with some dried lavender flowers.