The Ultimate Herb Tea Experience
Making herb tea as a life experience
Any activity, even a simple one like making tea, can bring learning and growth to our lives. This is especially true with activities that involve nature.
This page looks at how making herbal tea can be an enriching and mindful experience. Take your time and enjoy it, step by step.
Step 1 - Choose an herb
What herb do you want to drink? Your first task is to learn about the different types of herbs that are around us and how they act.
Some herbs are basically nutritious in nature, some are mildly medicinal, and some are strongly medicinal. Are you looking to simply nourish yourself, or are you treating yourself for a physical condition?
I'm very conservative when it comes to medicines, so I'm attracted to plants that are considered either nourishing or strengthening in nature. Whatever your goals are, make sure you know what you're going to partake of and how to use it safely.
Recommended reading: Using herbs safely by Susun Weed
Healing Wise is an introduction to "wise woman" herbal theory. Weed advocates relying on milder nutritive herbs, used over the long-term for overall health, as a better path than seeking out a lot of powerful medicinal herbs looking for "cures" for specific symptoms. She is a vivid writer and incorporates artwork and storytelling in her instruction.
Note: Weed makes some references to religion in the book, and her view of the philosophy of Christianity is quite different from mine as a Christian. But I was able to take her religious views with a grain of salt and still find her writing very enjoyable.
Step 2 - Learn your herb
Once you've decided which herb you're going to make tea from, get to know that herb. You can often find a lot of information online. The things that I like to learn about an herb are:
- The official binomial Latin name of the plant. Often the meaning of the Latin name will give an indication of how ancient people used the plant.
- The common English names. Note: A lot of plants have more than one English name, and some names are used for more than one plant. That's why I like knowing the Latin name as well.
- What area of the world it originally came from.
- The vitamin and mineral content of the plant.
- Any chemical components that have medicinal qualities.
- Any components that could have negative effects on the body. Just like there are some vegetables, like spinach, that we're told not to eat in huge excess (because of the oxalic acid), there are some beneficial herbs that could be undesirable in too large quantities.
- What are the common ways of preparing and drinking (or eating) the herb.
- It's also a lot of fun to learn about the folklore related to a plant, to see how people have viewed it through history.
Nutritional Herbology offers comprehensive nutritional information about many herbs, and also talks about their reputed medicinal qualities and the ways they are usually prepared.
Step 3 - Obtain the herb
Now that you've made friends with your herb of choice, it's time to go get some.
- If the plant grows wild in your area, you can go foraging for it! Go to areas that are not sprayed with pesticides and gather your herb to take home with you. I do this a lot, usually not for tea, but to make wonderful salads for myself.
- You might prefer to trying growing the herb yourself. There are many herbal seeds that you can buy to start an herb garden.
- You can also buy herbs, of course. You can either buy tea in bags or purchase herbs in bulk.
Foraging and growing herbs make for the richest experience of the plant because you are able to see what the plant is like in its living state. What conditions it grows in, how the whole plant looks, how it feels, how it smells. Buying the herb after it's already harvested will still give you good tea, but without the same learning that you'd get from harvesting the herb yourself.
Step 4 - Prepare the herb
If you have gathered fresh herb, you will decide how you want to prepare it for making tea. You can either use the herb fresh or dry it.
If you're going to use the herb fresh, then all you have to do is crush it or chop it up.
If you want to use the herb dried, you will need to have some kind of setup for doing the drying. Here are some instructions on drying herbs.
Step 5 - Make the tea
There are many different ways to make herbal tea. One thing to be aware of is the difference between a tea and an infusion.
What is referred to as "herb tea" is a beverage that is usually steeped in hot water for about 20 minutes. Teas can be made from either fresh or dried herbs.
What we call "herbal infusions" are preparations that are steeped much longer, at least 4 hours. Again, either fresh or dried herbs can be used.
Sometimes infusions are made without heating the water. Herbs are put into cold water to steep, perhaps set outside while steeping to make sun tea or moon tea.
Step 6 - Serve the tea
Even if you're just serving the tea to yourself, set aside a little time to relax and really enjoy it. I have a favorite cup that I use for drinking teas and juices. It makes me feel like I'm pampering myself.
Decide whether you want the tea warm or cold. Get it just the way you want it and sit back.
Step 7 - Drink the tea
When you drink your tea, try to experience it with all of your senses. Admire the color. It will be interesting to see how the color of the tea/infusion compares to the color of the fresh or dried plant.
Enjoy the aroma of the brew before you taste it.
If you're trying this tea for the first time, I would urge you to take a few sips of it just the way it is before you add sweeteners or other flavorings. The flavors of some herbs are wonderful with no additions at all. If you decide to add honey, sugar, milk, or anything else, try not to drown out the flavor of the herb.
Relax and enjoy your cup of tea. Think of it as making nature a part of you. All the benefits of the plant that you've been studying are there for you, right in that cup. Cheers.
© 2011 Joan Hall