Tea For Two

By Bonnie Grant | December 26, 2021
Image by Kostas Pavlis
by Bonnie Grant
December 26, 2021

I have tried to make wine from my grapes and this year my mate tried to make apple jack. The operative word here is “tried.” Neither one was a success so I think we will stick to purchasing our alcoholic indulgences. But one thing we are successful at is our teas. I love hot tea in the winter and cold tea in summer, so it seems sensible to make sure we have the ingredients out in our garden.

Making Homegrown Teas

Teas can be made from many types of flower heads and leaves. My favorites are mint and chamomile. Few things relax me like a hot cup of the latter, while the former keeps my tummy in good shape. Since I have always had a lot of edible plants, it made sense to provide myself with homegrown teas. I also love a tea with lemony flavor and have planned accordingly in my tea garden. 

Growing Chamomile Tea

One thing I’ve realized, is my tea plants tend to get huge. This past spring I put in a chamomile baby, but by the end of the growing season, the bush was enormous. It will have to be moved as it is crowding out some other wanted plants. But it was a huge success with tons of flowers the first flush. I cut them off and air dried them and was rewarded with another burst of tiny flowers. Harvesting is a bit tedious as they are smaller than the eraser on a pencil, but they keep well in a sealed glass jar and make the most delicious chamomile tea. 

Growing Mint Tea

It was similar with my mint plants. I was ready for their randy growth, however, and the mint is in its own area where it won’t bother any other flora. The mint leaves added to summer iced tea are delightfully refreshing. In winter, I have dried leaves that I steep for a zingy, energizing hot drink. The lemon verbena leaves make a lightly citrus tea to which I often add other herbs for variety. The lavender plants are beautiful, aromatic bushes that I harvest for baking, tea, and calming baths. Bee balm and rose hips are two other favorite tea preparations. Rose hips have a delicate aroma and some citrus notes. 

I haven’t gotten around to purchasing an actual tea plant yet. Apparently they are hardy to my zone. Camellia sinensis is the one I would like to source. It will be a medium sized shrub, but you can’t harvest leaves until the plant’s third year. Once I have tea leaves, I can combine them with my herbs for interesting combinations. I also want to source a stevia plant so I have natural sweetener for my tea. Another dream is a beekeeping project for fresh honey, but that is on the back burner for now. 

How To Make Homemade Tea

My herbal teas are all processed in similar ways. I cut what I need early in the morning, wash the material, and then drain it well. I have either spread the leaves and flowers out on a screen in the sun, or put them in the food dehydrator. Once the material is dry, I make sure any stems or other items are picked out of the tea. The chamomile flowers are saved as is, but leaves are usually crushed up a bit. Then my tea is ready to go into a tea ball whenever I want it. 

During the holidays, I often gift little mason jars of tea preparations. They are organic, pretty, and such a winter treat. But I admit, I hoard most of my teas for myself. It is an easy, satisfying treat when winter snow traps me indoors. 

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