The Art of Making Herbal Tea
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.
Fresh chamomile flower tea tastes of a tranquil summer evening. Just add a few flower heads to a cup, add some boiled water and infuse in a covered cup for 15 minutes. A teaspoon of the dried flower heads is delicious too, best infused in a pot and strained before drinking.
Fresh lemon balm tea is like drinking in all that is good in life. Put a 5cm sprig or two of the top 4 leaves in a cup, add some freshly boiled water and infuse in a covered cup for 15 minutes as all the balmy citrus notes infuse. A teaspoon of the dried leaves is delicious too, best infused in a pot and strained before drinking.
Fresh tulsi tea is a very special, even celebratory, infusion. This member of the mint family has a rich flavour with hints of clove. Put a 5cm sprig or a pinch of the top 4 leaves in a cup, add some boiled water and infuse in a covered cup for 15 minutes. A teaspoon of the dried leaves is delicious too, best infused in a pot and strained before drinking.
Fennel can be enjoyed as a tea using a few fresh fronds or a teaspoon of the seeds. Put them in a cup, add some boiled water and infuse in a covered cup for 15 minutes, and strain before drinking. Fennel seeds are sweet and refreshing whilst the fronds are more mellow and herbaceous.
Catnip and Licorice Mint can be enjoyed as above. They have more a minty and uplifting feel.
Making a blend is always a good way to balance any extreme flavours and adding some licorice or fennel helps to sweeten a brew. Read more information about each herb by clicking on it’s image above.
The water and how you boil it
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.
Ultimately you want to use freshly boiled water that has been left to cool a bit when making delicate teas such as lemon balm or tulsi. Over-heating can upset the balance between the stronger tanniny compounds with some of the subtle volatile oils and amino acids. Really hot water extracts more bitter and astringent compounds making the tea taste ‘harsh’, whilst water that is too cool is lacking the power to entice the flavours out of the herbs making it taste ‘weak’. Over-boiling water causes the minerals to come out of solution and collect as a film on the surface and, more importantly, lowers the oxygen content which reduces its ability to convert the delicate aromatic compounds to tasty experiences.
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. All the herbs in this Herbal Tea Garden are delicate and must be handled especially carefully. Pick individual flowers and leaves and place neatly on your drying rack until dry. 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.