Ah, it’s summer, the season of delicious warm breezes that caress us and grass we can tickle our bare feet on. We want to be outdoors as much as possible. Likely if we have a patio or deck we also have a table and chairs there so we can soak up the summer vibes and pretend we are reading when actually we are staring off at the undulating leaves of our lemongrass plant and marveling at the air solubility of bumble bees as they drone past.
And then it hits us! This moment could be even better with a freshly homemade iced tea.
One of the ultimate pleasures of growing season and of our organic way of life is that we can easily make a tea from many different types of herb plants. In the days when herbalism wasn’t just a good holistic technique, it was the only way known, everyone had their own small garden of essential plants. They made tea the old fashioned way – if it came out of a box that is only because they had dried the herbs themselves and put them into a box for preserving freshness. We have stepped away from this quite a bit in today’s society but there is great pleasure to be had by going back to the basics.
We can create our own fresh green teas today with very little space, even if we have room for only a large container on our patio. Some of the all time favorite tea herbs are Lemon Verbena, Apple Mint or any of the Mints, Lemon Balm, Chamomile and Lavender.
To make a fresh tea from our garden herbs we simply need to put our tea kettle on as usual. Then we walk out into the yard and find the plant or plants that suit us for tea. We thank the plant by virtue of our true pleasure and intentions for its leaves (though we can if we like say thank you more formally as well ) and cut a stem that will yield about 5 to 10 leaves. Depending upon how large the leaves are we can add less or more to taste. After making a few fresh teas you will be an expert in your requirements.
We come back in, rinse them if they need it and then take the leaves off the stem, placing them into a ceramic bowl that is big enough to hold the water for our tea. When the water is near to boiling we pour that on the herbs, cover this with a plate and let it sit to steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Yes if you have the fancy equipment to make tea with go ahead and use it. Tea making need not be high tech though.
Strain when done and add ice if cold tea is desired. These teas will be lighter in color – mostly yellow – since we are using fresh leaves. The amount of phytochemicals in our fresh tea is less than a dried version and it will have a greener and fresher taste that our palette will soon come to love at times. These teas are caffeine free as well so we can indulge all we want – homemade teas make especially good after dinner or late night beverages.
Once you have freshly made teas, you will become spoiled in the best of ways! The possibilities are endless for tea mixtures. . You could for example combine lemon verbena with a few lavender flowers and throw in some basil leaves for that special mystery zing. How about some Pineapple Sage for that pineapple scent with a sage kick alongside some lemon balm and a couple of chamomile flowers for their soothing effect? Or perhaps a classic combination, chamomile and mint. We might also want to add a Stevia plant to our garden for the super sweetening just a few leaves will provide.
When winter approaches we don’t have to forgo our tea making however we might have to do this from a dried point of view. Lemon verbena is especially easy to dry. Simply harvest it on a day when the plant calls that it is ready. It will likely be an Indian Summer type of day in the Autumn . Gather the stems in small bunches and tie with cotton string so that you can hang in a place that is open but is not getting direct sunlight. They will curl and crisp up in a few days days but to be sure, wait at least 2 weeks and test for ultimate crumbliness to ensure they are bone dry. Then you can store them in a large paper mailing envelope. It’s best to leave the stem and leaves intact rather than crumbling them in storage as this will preserve their flavor longer. Store in a cool cupboard and since this is dried, remember to use less than you would for a fresh tea.
There is nothing as satisfying when you want a tea than to look in your cupboard and be able to choose from among a variety of teas that you tended and harvested with love in your own yard. This is more akin to the aura of depth that can be felt at Chinese tea ceremonies, where the exacting and elegant process combines to elevate their tea service to a spiritual experience. The connection we will have to our own tea brings in a spiritual element that we do not get any other way.