Homemade herbal teas are a joy to make. They have a zing and a freshness that is unparalleled to anything bought, plus they are easy to make and cheap too.
Buy a single mint plant and with a little care, you can have mint tea until you can drink no more. If you want to get fancy, you can even make your own herbal tea bags. You can find a few good tutorial for those that like to sow and those that don’t online. Though frankly there’s little wrong with a tea strainer and a teapot. You can also try using a French coffee press (the plunger sort) as it works really well if you’ve got lots of leaves.
Fresh herb teas are delightful, and while you can, it’s always worth brewing them but at some point in the year, your plants will be tucked up for the winter. Thus if you want an all year round supply you’ll have to dry your own teas.
Now is the perfect time to dry leaves and other ingredients for tea. Clearly it makes sense to dry leaves that are healthy, have no mould or signs of disease, that haven’t been sprayed with chemicals and if you are foraging for tea, from a source which is not near a road because no one wants to drink car fumes and heavy metal pollution in their tea!
Leaves can simply be picked off and dried indoors until they are crisp. Use a baking tray line with parchment paper, then you can fashion the paper into a funnel to use in a storage jar, when the time comes for that. Mint leaves take just a day or two; thicker leaves like bay or raspberry will take longer. It’s best to dry your leaves away from direct sunlight, which will bleach them. Sometimes it’s easiest just to pick a sprig or branch and hang the whole thing upside down above a radiator or somewhere warm. Pick off the dried leaves carefully when the whole plant is dry. Some people like to grind up the leaves so they get a potent brew, if you want to do this; either use a pestle and mortar or a clean coffee grinder.
Rosehips can be dried on a warm windowsill, in a dehydrator or on the lowest setting in your oven for several hours. They are fully dry if, when you gently push your thumbnail in, you can’t leave a mark. Rose petals dry very quickly and often reduce massively in size. Try and go for roses that smell good, as these tend to impart better flavour. Saying that, our common dog rose; Rosa canina, is great for tea as it has a lovely flavour and is readily available (though not at this time of year, you’ll have to look for hips instead!).
Lemon balm; Melissa officinalis, is the only herb I don’t tend to dry. I find the dried stuff tastes dull and I’d rather drink it as a seasonal tea. If however you want to dry it, just hang the whole sprig of the stuff upside down.
Once dried, all teas should be stored somewhere cool, dry and out of direct sunlight.
I like a blend of several different mints in my tea. My favourite is:
2 parts black stemmed peppermint
2 parts Tashkent mint
1 part spearmint
Lemon verbena and lemon balm tea
Lemon verbena is the most delicious of all herbal teas in my mind. It’s somewhere between lemon sherbet and lemon bonbons, sweet yet not sickly, great for after dinner as a digestive.
Three lemon verbena leaves (they work just as well dried as fresh, so pick your leaves now and leave them on a warm windowsill for several days).
Lavender and rose tea
I sometimes add a little black tea to this recipe to give a little more body. This is a very floral tea that is rather nice in the afternoon with some buttery shortbread. Not to everyone’s liking, but it is very calming and if you don’t add any black tea, suitable for bedtime too.
One large handful of lemon balm
2 teaspoons lavender seeds
1 tablespoon rose hip
1 tablespoon of dried rose petals
She tea (suitable for pregnant women)
Raspberry leaf is known to be great for pregnancy, nourishing and calming
2 parts raspberry leaf
2 parts nettle Leaf
2 parts chamomile
Bay leaf tea
This tea is very good for digestion, stimulating digestion and calming angry stomachs. It tastes surprisingly delicious.
Four to five bay leaves roughly shredded and stepped using a pestle and mortar for at least five minutes. Or for a stronger tea gently boil five whole leaves for around 20 minutes. Allow to cool and drink (the latter mixture can also be used to wash your hair to help with dandruff!)
Olive leaf tea
This one is particularly good for sore throats, that horrible moment when you realise you are getting a scratchy throat and then a cold. Please consult a doctor if you are taking other medicines. Boil three or four fresh olive leaves until the water turns green. Allow to cool a little and drink. I’m going to be honest here and say that to work well the tea should taste bitter, but it does work very well. For a particularly potent brew for sore throats, try adding a spring of rosemary to the pan and a little lemon and honey so it goes down easily.
Rosehip and lemon tea
This is the perfect tea for winter. Make sure you collect rosehips from plants that haven’t been sprayed with chemicals or collect from wild roses away from main roads.
A large handful of dried rosehips
¼ lemon (or if you have lemon verbena you can use four or five leaves of this)
The rosehips need to be boiled up to extract their flavour, and then add lemon and honey to taste (and a little whisky if you fancy). This one is packed with Vitamin C, as long as you don’t over boil the rosehips. Too much heat destroys the Vitamin C. Bring the tea to a gentle boil and once the water turns orange-pink take it off to cool.
Why not share your favourites by commenting below?