How to make tea from fresh herbs
These three delicious recipes for herbal teas will leave you refreshed and relaxed. Herbs rightly get a lot of attention for their contribution to cooking and food. It’s hard to imagine tomato sauce without basil or Chicken Provencal without rosemary, thyme and marjoram! But herbs are incredible when used to make teas and other infusions. Herbal teas are also called ’tisanes’ and can be enjoyed hot or cold. Iced herbal teas are a fantastic way to beat the summer heat.
Here’s three delicious recipes for herbal tea – but these are just the beginning. You can get very creative with herbal teas and tisanes! Note that although these preparations prioritize fresh herbs, you can substitute dried herbs instead.
Want to sweeten your herbal tea and add a little more herbal flavor? Make an infused syrup and add a spoonful to your brew.
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Lemon and Mint Iced Tea
Lemon and herbs were made for each other! Which is probably the reason there are so many lemon flavored herb varieties out there. This crisp, refreshing tea works with any lemon herb. Lemon verbena will infuse the tea with a very strong lemon flavor while lemon balm is a little more subtle. Both smell wonderfully lemony, too. For a brighter lemon flavor tempered by an herby sweetness, try lemon thyme.
When it comes to mine, spearmint works best with citrus, but you can use peppermint if you prefer it. Spearmint has less menthol in the leaves, so it doesn’t overpower the lemon with super strong minty flavor. Use any spearmint you like, but if you have it, ‘Mojito’ mint is especially nice against the citrus.
To make one quart of lemon and mint tea:
1/2 half cup lemon balm or lemon verbena leaves (approximately two tablespoons dried)
1/4 cup spearmint leaves (approximately one tablespoon dried)
If the fresh herbs have any visible dirt or soiling, rinse them quickly. Put the herbs into a mason jar, then fill the jar with warm but not boiling water. Allow to steep at least 30 minutes. The longer the herbs steep, the stronger and more nuanced the flavors. You can also set the jar in the sun for a few hours to help the flavors infuse.
Strain. If you compost, the spent herbs can go in your pile.
Drink over ice. Store leftover tea in the fridge.
Notes on lemon and mint iced tea
- The amount of herbs is just a starting point. You can adjust the quantities to your liking.
- If you use lemon thyme, you’ll need to use a bit less than half a cup and you’ll need to strain the infusion with a fine mesh strainer
- You can use two different lemon herbs if you wish.
- Great garnishes include sliced cucumber or an orange wheel
This tea is also great frozen into cubes and added to black iced tea or even just plain water.
It’s easy to dry fresh herbs, so if you have an abundance, dry them and use them in tea all year long.
These are three of my favorite books about growing and using herbs, I turn to them all the time. If you want to know more about herbal medicine, you definitely need these.
Lavender, lemon and purple sage tea
I did say lemon and herbs were made for each other…
The lavender brings a strong floral flavor to the brew that nicely balances the earthy flavor from the sage. Lemon adds a bright note. I prefer to drink this tea hot, and it’s wonderful with a scant teaspoon of honey.
A bonus is that sage and honey can soothe a sore throat and help ease a cough.
To make one 12 ounce mug of lavender, lemon and sage tea:
1/2 tablespoon of fresh lavender flowers OR 1/3 tablespoon of dried lavender flowers – any variety will work but ‘Provence’ is especially nice
2-3 purple fresh purple sage leaves OR 1/2 tablespoon dried purple sage leaves. You can sub in common sage instead.
1 or 2 lemon verbena leaves OR lemon balm leaves. If using dried leaves, use 1 tablespoon of verbena or balm leaves.
If the fresh herbs have any visible dirt or soiling, rinse them quickly.
How to brew hot herbal tea:
Pack the leaves into a tea ball or closed strainer. Place in large mug or teapot. Fill with very hot but not boiling water. Cover the mug with a saucer or put the lid on the teapot. Allow to steep covered for at least 20 minutes.
Remove the tea leaves. If you compost, the spent herbs can go in your pile.
Sweeten with honey if you’d like. Drink and enjoy.
- The amount of herbs is just a starting point – adjust them to suit your preferences.
- Don’t skip the cover. Keeping a lid on the tea while it steeps captures and concentrates the flavor.
- Dried herbs will have a more concentrated flavor but the flavors may be somewhat dulled comparatively
- Herbal teas need to steep longer than black teas in order to release their full flavor
Chamomile tea with thyme
I was tempted to make a pun here about “tea thyme” but I held back. Chamomile tea is arguably the most iconic herbal tea, so a post about herbal tea recipes would hardly be complete without it. The flowers have a pleasant flavor and can be very calming, in addition to soothing an upset stomach. Most commercial chamomile tea is dried and finely chopped, this chamomile tea uses fresh flowers.
To make chamomile tea with thyme:
- Loosely pack 1-2 tablespoons of chopped fresh chamomile flowers into a tea ball or strainer. If your chamomile has green stems attached, feel free to include those, too.
- Add the leaves from one spring of thyme.
- Steep in 12 ounces of very hot but not boiling water for 10-15 minutes. Strain, sweeten with honey if you wish and enjoy warm.
While herbal teas need to steep longer than black teas, chamomile can become bitter if steeped too long. If you desire a stronger flavor in your tea, increase the quantity of flowers rather than steeping longer.
You can make this with dried flowers, too. It’s also easy to serve over ice. Just let the tea cool, then strain and pour.
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