fresh herbal tea

Fresh herb tea

12 August 2011

Herbal teas in a bag can taste musty to me, but teas made with fresh herbs have a bright garden greenness that I love. This summer I’ve been enjoying fresh mint, always a tongue-tingling delight, as well as lemongrass and lemon verbena. I adore my black tea in the morning, but in the evenings a fresh herbal tea is just right.

I also appreciate the subtle health benefits of fresh herb teas. USDA researchers have found that herbs are more dense with antioxidants than fruits and vegetables, so drinking a fresh herbal infusion, a long-held tradition in many cultures, seems like a smart idea. I also love the aromatherapy of it – something about the green fragrance of herbal teas makes me want to breathe in more deeply than with my regular cuppa.

For those of us used to commercial-strength teas, herbal teas, technically known as tisanes, can take some recalibration of taste buds. Adding a generous amount of fresh herbs to green or black teas is an happy middle ground. In Morocco, a sweetened green tea and fresh mint combination is a staple of daily life. My mom makes a wonderful green tea and fresh lemongrass brew.

Combining herbs can also make for a more interesting drink. Elise from Simply Recipes writes about having lemon verbena and fresh mint tea at the Chez Panisse Cafe. Ginger and mint is also a stimulating opposites-attract mixture of hot and cool.

I also like the simplicity of a single herb. Fresh mint is the ultimate for me, with a touch of sugar. Fresh ginger tea always transports me to Bali, where I spent my honeymoon enjoying fresh limeade during the day and sweet ginger tea at night.

I’m going to illustrate with a traditional hot-water brew, but you can also make a sun tea or cold brew if it’s still too hot where you are to imagine boiling water.

I grow lemon verbena and mint – or more accurately, I’ve managed not to neglect them to death yet.

My mom grows lemongrass, which like everything else in my mom’s garden, thrives under her loving care.

It makes me happy to harvest anything from my yard. This is lemongrass, lemon verbena and mint. Lemon verbena (verveine) is popular in France, its long thin leaves usually sold in whole dried leaves for tea.

A handful (1/4 to 1/2 cup) of herbs per cup of water should make for a nice brew. This is lemon verbena and mint.

Pour in water that’s been boiled and cooled for a few minutes. Filtered water does make a difference here – herbal teas are subtle, and regrettably the taste of tap water these days is not.

Mint tea has a fantastic green color that unfortunately doesn’t come out in the pictures.

With lemongrass, you’ll just use the very bottom stemmy part (kind of like the bottom of a scallion but woodier), not the long thin leaves. Cut on an extreme diagonal or score the stems down the center to expose more of the interior.

My mom’s green tea is really green; this sencha tea turned out more of a light brown. Lemongrass adds a subtle lemony aroma that is a delightful complement to green tea.

We’re readying to leave California again for another year in Columbus, Ohio, home to my happily large in-law family and in my book the friendliest city in the country. We’ll be glad when we get there, but in between laundry, packing and cleaning tomorrow, I might have to brew up some fresh herbal tea so that its fragrance reminds me to breathe.

Drop a comment here and let me know about your tea adventures. Or anything else, really – hearing from you always gives me a boost.

Related links

Fresh Herb Tea
To me herbal teas in a bag can have an off taste, but herbal teas made with fresh herbs have a bright garden greenness that I love. This summer I’ve been enjoying fresh mint tea, always a tongue-tingling delight, as well as lemongrass and lemon verbena. Fresh ginger with honey is a winter favorite.

Ingredients (one or a combination)

  • Mint
  • Lemon verbena
  • Lemongrass
  • Ginger
  • Lemon or orange zest (outer zest peeled from fruit, not grated)
  • Black or green tea (if you like a stronger-flavored – or caffeinated – tea)
  • Filtered water

Hot tea directions

  1. Boil water. Let cool in kettle for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Add fresh herbs to a teapot. Amount depends on the strength of the herb and how strong you like your tea – approximately 1/4-1/2 cup of leafy herbs per cup of water. Ginger can be potent, depending on freshness.
  3. Pour hot water over herbs and let steep for several minutes. If you like, use a spoon to press herbs against the vessel to release additional flavor. Enjoy with honey or sweetener, if desired.

Sun tea directions

  1. Add fresh herbs to a glass jar. Amount depends on the strength of the herb and how strong you like your tea – approximately 1/4-1/2 cup of leafy herbs per cup of water. Ginger can be potent, depending on freshness; try a few slices and add more if you like.
  2. Fill with filtered water and let sit in sun for several hours, or a day or so in the refrigerator. If you like, use a spoon to press herbs against the vessel to release additional flavor.
  3. Enjoy with honey or sweetener, if desired.

Note

  • Experiment with different combinations: Fresh mint with green tea – sweetened, of course – is a Moroccan tradition. Lemongrass and green tea is a favorite or my mom’s; Elise of Simply Recipes writes about having mint and lemon verbena at the Chez Panisse Cafe; ginger and mint is also a wonderfully stimulating combination.

Here’s the link to a printable version.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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