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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.

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The Bouquet Garni Gourmet Soup Guide

“Soup is the song of the hearth….and the home.” – The Gourmet Soup Guide

gourmet soup recipes

The saying goes ‘variety is the spice of life’ and that is what the culinary herbs and spices are all about. Adding effortless variety to your daily cooking.

Being herb lovers we don’t enjoy the winter months. But even we are comforted by the thought of curling up by a blazing fire with a bowl of hot, hearty, nutritious soup and a slab of crusty bread and herb butter. And if we can have a glass of gluhwein on the side – even the better.

See if you agree with the Staff at Allrecipes.com who said the following about the culinary characteristics of soup:

“Soup is a many-splendored thing; as soup, more than any other food, invite you to innovate and experiment, making something fabulous with what you’ve already got on your shelves.

Soup is the most improvisation-friendly food in the world. You can substitute, increase, decrease, exclude and include ingredients to your hearts content without fear of disaster.

What’s more…

A bowl of soup can be a stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal with a wonderful array of flavours, textures and nutrients from every food group. And soup can be hearty, healthy, and filling without being fattening.”

gourmet soup guide

We especially like their descriptions of soup being a “stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal” and it being “the most improvisation-friendly food in the world.” Many a time, when making soup, you feel like a toddler in a candy store. Not knowing what to put in and what to leave out of the soup pot.

But there’s a lot more to soup than just being a “stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal”, it’s also a powerhouse of nutrition and healing properties.

“I’m sure that the tips and ideas, soup bouquets garnis,  recipes and endless variations in this gourmet soup guide will make you the soup talk of the town.” – The Gourmet Soup Guide

 

14 Quick Gourmet Soup Tips and Ideas

Use these tips and ideas to help stretch your food budget with one of the oldest and most nutritious, varied, and international of all dishes.

The Top 5 Gourmet Soup Herbs

If you are serious about creating gourmet soups you’ll find these indispensable in your arsenal. We’ve also included a list of 36 popular soup flavourings.

Gourmet Soup Recipe Archive

gourmet soup guide

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Quick and Easy Chili Pickles Recipe

bottles of chili picklesIt’s no secret – we love chili peppers. And we like them as close to freshly picked as possible. Bursting with freshness, flavour and aroma.

Dried chilies tend to be too overpowering for us. Besides, they lack the complex flavour profile of fresh ones.

Pickled chilies are a great way to preserve that just picked flavour, and they are quick and easy to make.

Nicely decorated bottles of chili pickle are a simple, yet eye-catching gift, especially when you use a whole medley of different colours and sizes of chilies.

When making pickled chili gifts select chili varieties to suit the receiver. For chili heads use extra hot varieties like habanero and tabasco. For soft mouths use milder varieties like Jalapeno and Hungarian wax.

If you don’t grow your own chilies you’ll find a ready supply at your local greengrocer or supermarket.

You’l find many more recipes on our main recipe page. We also stock a range of exotic spices and freeze dried herbs in the Eco Herb Shop.

Quick and Easy Chili Pickles Recipe
 
Makes one big jar.
By:
  • Fresh whole chilies
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons pickling spice (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
  • You'll also need a sterilized wide mouth jar
  1. Wash the chillies under running cold water.
  2. Poke a few small holes in the top of each chili to allow the pickle to penetrate them.
  3. Add the water, vinegar, optional pickling spice, and sugar to a pot and slowly bring to a boil. Remove from the stove the moment it starts boiling.
  4. Meanwhile, pack the chilies into the sterilized bottle.
  5. Carefully pour the just boiled pickle mixture over the chilies, leaving no headspace.
  6. Let it cool and remove trapped air bubbles by gently tapping the jar on the table.
  7. Seal and store in the refrigerator. Use within four to six weeks.

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How To Make Herbal Vinegar

The first secret to making a winning herbal vinegar is to use more or less equal quantities of fresh herbs and vinegar. This ensures that the herb flavours can stand up to the sharp taste of the vinegar.

Another secret is to let the herbs wilt slightly. This heightens their flavour, again helping them stand up to the sharp taste of the vinegar.

The best vinegar to use is pure white grape vinegar. Some people also use apple cider or rice vinegar. When starting out, first make small batches with your favourite vinegars to find the one you like most.

Tip: It is a good practice to notice the proportions of the different herbs that you use and to measure out the spices. This will allow you to recreate your signature herb infused vinegars.

how to make a herbal vinegar recipe and tips

Herb Infused Vinegar
 
Makes about 1 cup
By:
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 cup clean, wilted fresh herbs, lightly bruised with a rolling pin
  • spices (optional)
  1. Sterilize a wide mouth jar or bottle. An old 500ml mayonnaise bottle works well.
  2. Rinse the herbs if needed and allow to dry.
  3. Let the herbs wilt slightly to get rid of any unnecessary moisture.
  4. Pack the bottle lightly with the herbs.
  5. Crush and add the spices if using.
  6. Add the vinegar.
  7. Seal the bottle, label it and shake well.
  8. Keep in a cool, dark place and taste after 4 days to see if the vinegar has been infused to your taste. If not, let stand for up to ten days. Shake the bottle regularly in the ageing period.
  9. Strain through a muslin cloth or through a coffee filter.
  10. Transfer the strained vinegar into another sterilized bottle. Seal. Label and decorate. Your vinegar is ready to use.
Notes
Caution: The vinegar can ferment if it is kept too warm. A low storage temperature is also important for maintaining the flavour. Discard any vinegar that develops a questionable colour or flavour. Use your infused vinegars within three months.

 

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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
 
By:
  • 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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Spicy Dill Dip

spicy dill dip

Dill is one of those herbs that you simply have to use fresh. And with an abundance of plants available from garden centres there’s no excuse for not adding this herb to your repertoire. One of its main uses is to flavour bland store bought veggies. Serve this spicy dip with crudités, potato chips or as a sauce for cold salmon or prawns.

1/2 cup sour cream
3 Tbs mayonnaise
2 Tbs dill, finely chopped
1 Tbs parsley, finely chopped
1 Tbs minced green onion
1 Tbs chili sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt, to taste
Freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours to allow the flavours to develop.