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.

A Handful of Tried and Tested Herb 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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Herbes de Provence Croutons – Recipe

I’m sure you’ve heard about Herbes de Provence. The classic Mediterranean flavour medley consisting of thyme, rosemary, oregano and marjoram.

I get a lot of inspiration from Mediterranean cuisines. Most of the fresh herbs that form the mainstay of our flavouring repertoire are indigenous to the Mediterranean and therefore feature prominently in these dishes.

Meals throughout these cuisines usually begin with a selection of little cooked dishes or salads that are designed to stimulate the appetite. This means the herbal flavours in them can be especially pronounced and daring which is right up any herb cook’s alley.

Croutons are often used to add a zesty element to soups and salads. In the Mediterranean people use fresh herbs for making croutons. Don’t buy sliced bread for this recipe. Slice the bread yourself, and don’t be too precise when cutting. Having irregular sized croutons is part of their charm.

herb croutons

Herbes de Provence Croutons
 
By:
  • 8 slices day old bread, about 2 cm thick
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon oregano, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon marjoram, chopped
  1. Without removing the crusts, cut the bread slices into 2cm cubes.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until translucent, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add the bread cubes, reduce the heat to low, and cook slowly, turning once, until golden and crusty, 4 to 5 minutes on each side.
  4. Sprinkle the cubes with the salt, thyme, rosemary, and oregano and marjoram. Turn a few times in the pan to coat evenly.
  5. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the croutons to paper towels to drain and cool.
  6. To store, put in a paper bag, fold the top over several times, and keep for up to 1 week.

Avocado Dip with Chives and Marjoram

Ripe avocados are an almost complete food. Giving us lots of natural potassium, beta-carotene, vitamin E, some vitamin B and C, a little protein and starch and avocado oil, which is mainly a monounsaturated fat. Avocado, chives and marjoram, is a match made in heaven and its healthy indulgence at its best.

avocado dip

Avocado Dip with Chives and Marjoram
 
Prep time
Total time
 
By:
Serves: 2
  • For each avocado use:
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped marjoram
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Halve the avocado and remove the stone.
  2. Scoop out the flesh, without damaging the skin, and mash it with the lemon juice.
  3. Blend in the cream, chives and marjoram and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Pile back into avocado skins (or scoop into a small serving bowl) and add a few sprigs chives or marjoram as a garnish.
  5. Serve with crisp bread, potato chips or as is.
  6. The variations on this recipe are nearly endless. Add a little crushed garlic, chopped chillies, chervil, cilantro, tarragon or flat-leaf parsley in whatever ratios you feel like. But be careful, too much garlic and tarragon can easily overpower the avocado.
Notes
The variations on this recipe are nearly endless. Add a little crushed garlic, chopped chillies, chervil, cilantro, tarragon or flat-leaf parsley in whatever ratios you feel like. But be careful, too much garlic and tarragon can easily overpower the avocado.