Many of the herbs in The Digestive Tea Garden can be enjoyed – fresh or dried – in a cup of herbal tea. Some, such as chamomile, fennel and lemon balm are distinctively delicious; others such as vervain are quite bitter and can be sweetened with licorice mint or marshmallow.
Just as selecting top quality herbs is important for a great cup of tea, so are the minute details such as the amount of herbs in each cup, the shape and size of the herbs, the infusion time, the quality of water, the water temperature, the teapot, the cup……the company.
Water for the best herbal tea should be fresh, pure, clear, odourless and low in minerals. Its also really worth thinking about where you get the energy required for boiling your water. Getting your energy from a renewable energy source is the best way for a positive cup of tea. Getting an energy efficient kettle is another way of ensuring you don’t waste energy.
Its also important to keep a lid over the herbs so their precious aromatic oils are kept in the tea.
Infuse the herbs in covered cup or teapot for 10-15 minutes, strain and drink. Some herbs may be infused or decocted for longer so read up on the specifics of each herb.
A Bitter Tonic Tincture
The use of bitter herbs to enhance digestion is seen in the array of ‘digestif’ and ‘amaro’ tonics found around the world. These are a blend of bitter and aromatic herbs either infused or distilled in alcohol, often with a sweetener added. To make a bitter tonic you make a tincture and flavour as you like.
A tincture is made by macerating fresh or dry plants in a solution of water and alcohol. The tincture maceration method is tried and tested, effective and pretty easy to make. You will need some jars for storing the maceration, measuring jug, scales, record book and maybe a mill, chopping board and a pestle and mortar.
Cut the herb into small pieces, weigh the appropriate amount and then add the suitable strength of alcohol with the volume of water. A starting guide for dry herbs is to use a ratio of 1 part herb:5 parts menstruum (the liquid solvent) – in this example it means you know that 5ml of the finished tincture extract is equivalent to 1g of the herb. This blend is left to soak for 2-4 weeks, gently agitated daily, ensuring everything is fully submerged, and then strained and pressed. It is important to filter the tincture before use (a coffee percolator works well) and to label it correctly with dates, batch numbers, ratios and ingredients.
Collect the herbs for your bitter tonic over the summer, dry them and store in an airtight container. An example may be 10g of each of the herbs in the Digestive Tea Garden added to 500ml brandy. After following the instructions above, and 100ml honey and take a teaspoon with a little water before meals to get all the juices flowing..
See here for more specific information on making tinctures.
How to dry your herbs
Once you start drying your own herbs you will realise how good freshly-dried herbs can actually be. Lay them out on a rack and keep in a warm – around 35C – and well ventilated area for 12-24 hours, or until crisp and dry. Delicate leaves and aromatic roots must be handled especially carefully. Pick individual flowers and leaves and place neatly on your drying rack. For roots, scrub them clean, slice into smaller pieces and dry for as long as necessary. A dehydrator may be best for more predictable results and store in an airtight container.
Always read the specific information on each individual herb to find out how to use them properly.