Herbs in Tea
Post by: Patrea Wilson
I worked, for a while, selling high-quality loose-leaf tea and learned to love tea of all varieties. When summer comes around, it’s a special treat to blend my fascination with tea and my love of gardening into some delicious iced drinks.
The only herbal component of this drink is Kentucky Colonel mint (Mentha spicata ‘Kentucky Colonel’). The spices may be found at a good spice shop or organic grocery.
Equipment: 4-cup glass or porcelain teapot 6-cup (or larger) pitcher Strainer 4 C water 4 t malty, black, loose-leaf tea (such as Assam or Ceylon) 1 star anise 1 cinnamon stick 4 whole cloves 1/3 C sugar 2 stems of freshly-picked mint
Heat water to boiling. Place loose-leaf tea, star anise, cinnamon and cloves in the teapot. Pour in boiling water.
Cover pot and steep for 5 minutes, then strain the liquid into the pitcher. Discard spices. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Refrigerate until liquid is cold.
To serve, lightly crush leaves on the mint stems and place entire stem into a tall glass. Fill the glass with ice cubes. Pour tea over ice and use mint stems to stir.
Tip: Iced tea recipes usually make a strong tea – large amount of tea leaf and long steeping time – to counter the dilution of the tea resulting from the ice melting. Another way to maintain consistent flavor in iced tea is to use less tea leaf and a shorter steep, making twice as much as you plan to serve. Freeze half the tea in ice cube trays and, when serving, pour cooled tea over the tea cubes for full flavor and no dilution.
The mother plant of all tea is Camelia sinensis, or Chinese camelia, an evergreen tree that is endemic to China. Major tea-growing regions of the world include China, Kenya, Japan, Taiwan, India, and Sri Lanka.
Tea is an agricultural product, usually hand-picked by local employees and processed at small business operations into white, green, oolong, or black tea. The length of time that a tea leaf is allowed to oxidize during processing determines which type of tea it will become. All types make delicious hot tea and many can be combined with herbs – mint, lemon verbena, lavender, and many more – into delicious hot or cold beverages.
Originally served hot when it was discovered nearly 5,000 years ago in China, tea began to be served cold early in the 19th century, following the availability of refrigeration. In the U.S., sweet iced tea was common in the South, and it was popularized when it was served in 1904 at the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri.
Green tea from China, mint from the garden, sugar, and hot water combine for a twist on the quintessential Moroccan tea. Traditionally served hot, this tea is also exquisite when iced.
Gunpowder-style tea is hand-rolled into small pellets during processing to preserve its strong flavor, making it a good taste partner to mint and sugar.
Equipment: 4-cup glass or porcelain teapot 6-cup (or larger) pitcher Strainer 4 C water 4 t loose-leaf China green tea, Gunpowder style 2 T sugar (more or less to taste) 1 large handful of freshly-picked common mint (Mentha spicata)
Heat water to boiling. Pour into the pitcher and set aside for 10 minutes to reduce the temperature. Place loose-leaf tea in the tea pot and add all the mint. Pour in the hot water, cover the pot, and steep for 5 minutes.
Strain the liquid into the pitcher and discard tea and mint leaves. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Refrigerate until liquid is cold.
Serve over ice cubes in a tall glass.
Also called, “Lady Grey’s Tea,” this delicate blend is wonderful chilled. It is based on the commercially-available Earl Grey Tea that is flavored with bergamot, an essential oil from Mediterranean bitter oranges (Citrus bergamia). Dried lavender blossoms are added during steeping. If you don’t grow lavender and must purchase it, be sure it has not been treated with chemicals.
Equipment: 4-cup glass or porcelain teapot 6-cup (or larger) pitcher Strainer 4 C water 4 t Earl Grey flavored tea 1 t dried lavender buds (Lavandula angustifolia)
Heat water to boiling. Place tea and lavender in the teapot. As soon as water boils, pour over the tea and lavender. Cover the pot, and steep for 5 minutes.
Strain the liquid into the pitcher and discard tea and lavender. Refrigerate until liquid is cold.
Serve chilled in small cups over cracked ice.
Equipment: 4-cup glass or porcelain teapot 6-cup (or larger) pitcher Strainer 4 C water 4 t oolong tea (such as Ti Kwan Yin) 1 handful of fresh lemon balm (Melissa Officinalis)
Heat water to boiling. Pour hot water into pitcher and set aside for 5 minutes to reduce the temperature of the water.
Place tea and lemon balm in the teapot. Pour water over tea and herbs. Cover the pot, and steep for 5 minutes.
Strain the liquid into the pitcher and discard tea and lemon balm leaves. Refrigerate until liquid is cold.
Serve chilled in tall glasses over ice cubes. Garnish with lemon slices, if desired.
These recipes present only a few of the possible combinations of tea with herbs. Borage flowers, sage leaves, stems of lemongrass, and even edible chrysanthemums have been added to tea to create wonderful and satisfying drinks. The only limit is your own taste preferences and your imagination.