Tea is steeped in history and brimming with tradition. Recently, the news has been overflowing with praise for tea’s health enhancing properties. Herbal tea has the same healthful antioxidants found in black and green tea as well as additional medicinal benefits which are unique to each herb.
Besides for improving your health, the ritual of drinking tea brings moments of grace to our chaotic lives. To enhance this pleasure, imagine going into your garden and picking your own custom blend of herbs to make a cup.
For example, you could make a cup of sage tea as a natural lift when you need energy. To grow this carefree herb, plant it in full sun in soil that drains well.
A Mediterranean native, sage has grey leaves and gorgeous purple flowers in spring. A whiff of this plant instantly evokes Thanksgiving Day. Sage tea is robust, and helps to fight off colds. The Latin word for sage is salveo which means to be in good health.
The best-known herbal tea is chamomile. In the popular childhood book, ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit,’ chamomile tea was given to soothe Peter’s indigestion after he devoured Mr. MacGregor’s garden. Today, chamomile tea is still used to soothe stomachs and ease insomnia.
German chamomile is the annual form of the herb and the best for tea. Like most herbs chamomile does best in full sun and in well draining soil. In late spring, chamomile is covered with apple scented daisy-like flowers. German chamomile dies after blooming, so harvest it when it is full bloom. Dry the entire plant because the tiny flowers are hard to separate from the leaves. Hang plants upside down to dry. Then, store in a glass container, because keeping herbs in metal or plastic alters their taste.
Lemon balm makes a mild citrus tea. Lemon balm was called “Hearts Delight” in old England, and apothecaries touted the herb’s ability to dispel melancholy. Today, in aroma therapy, lemon balm tea is used to lift spirits.
To grow lemon balm, give it morning sun and afternoon shade. The fear that lemon balm is invasive is a tempest in a tea pot, because it is not a garden thug. Instead, lemon balm creeps slowly into your garden. Like most perennial herbs, the old growth shoulld be cut off in winter.
Harvest lemon balm leaves anytime. To keep leaves from drying a brown color, separate them from the stem. Then spread out the leaves in a single layer to dry.
Lemon balm tea was once called the cure-all, because apothecaries used it for every ailment, including potions for youthfulness. Try lemon balm combined with mint for a refreshing iced tea.
There are so many other wonderful herbs to grow for tea: bee balm, rosemary, thyme, mint, and lemon verbena. Enjoy experimenting, by going to the garden with a cup of hot water and add fresh herb leaves to steep. Soon you will discover a blend that suits you to a tea.