I am no historian, but I would guess herbal teas have been around for as long as herbs have been used for food or medicine, and man (or woman) kind has had the ability to boil water. Really I can just see it now, cro-magnon man says: “zug woman me have upset tummy after eating half a big hairy long nosed beast leg”, and cro-magnon woman rolling her eyes at his gluttonous ways, thinking he should eat more plants goes off to make some mint tea for her man’s ills.
Herbal tea is made typically by pouring boiling water over various plant parts, (leaves, seeds, roots, flowers, etc.) and letting it steep until the water retains the flavor (or medicinal properties). Some herbal teas may be bought in tea bags for your convenience. These are great when you are on the go, but there is nothing better than tea made from fresh plants or whole dried leaves, flowers, etc.
Herbal teas are great both to enjoy for the flavor and for more medicinal uses. I love to find the best flavor combinations while maximizing the health benefit as well!
If you are just making the tea to enjoy on a cold winters eve, or iced on the back porch on a hot summer night, the tea only needs to steep for 5-10 minutes, or until the flavor is where you like it. If you are using teas for medicinal purposes, steep time should be at least 30 minutes, the longer it steeps, the more affective it will be (up to about 2 hours, then its just sitting there waiting and ready.)
“OK”, you say, “I have my herbs, I have my boiled water… so what now?” There are many ways to make and steep your tea, but I have three favorites.
French press: This is by far and away the best way to make teas with small leaves, ground roots, seeds, or anything that is small enough that you wont want to go fishing for in your tea cup. Almost every night before I go to bed I make a tea with 2 sprigs of fresh mint (if I have some handy), 2 leaves of stevia and 2 tbsp of chamomile. I pour boiling water from my tea pot over it and let it steep for about an hour. (I make it right before dinner so I can enjoy it all evening afterward). The press filters out all the chamomile floaties. It is wonderful and easy to use. It is also great for dandelion tea, flower teas where the petals will separate like the lymph tea, and loose leaf green or black teas.
Fiestaware pitcher: Ok so it doesnt have to be fiestaware, that is just what I have; but it is so pretty! To add to its beauty and make some delicous tea to enjoy on a hot summer day, take 1 sprig of spear mint, a handful of hibiscus leaves, and some dried orange or lemon peel. Put it in the pitcher, add boiling water to the fill line, (obviously don’t add boiling hot water to plastic; in fact, avoid plastic as much as you can), and let steep about 20 minutes. If you use a clear glass jar you can put it out in the sun for a tasty delicious sun tea as well! If you chose to add some vodka to the tea with fresh lemon or orange peel I bet it would be marvelous!
Tea Ball, or Tea Infuser: Last, but not least, the tea ball/infuser. This is a metal wire mesh ball that opens in the center so that you can put your tea on the inside and steep without all the loose leaf tea messiness. This is great if you are just having a single cup of tea, or if you like that relaxing feeling of staring off into space, daydreaming, dipping the tea repeatedly in the steamy water, slowly smelling the sweet fumes drifting up to you, and feeling at peace. That is how I feel when I use it at least. They work great and are cheap! Also great for smaller particle teas.
So there you go, Amanda’s basic “how to” on herbal teas. Now go out, make a nice steamy cup of goodness, and enjoy!