Wholesome, Hearty Herbal Teas

For a healthful thirst quencher in summer or any time of year, try these herbal teas.


| May/June 1981



069 herbal teas - cup of tea

Herbal teas make a delicious,soothing drinks whether brewed in a pot or in single servings.


PHOTO: GUS KOSTICH AND MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

With the return of warm weather, most folks spend a lot of time catching up on the kinds of outside chores that tend to pile up over the winter months ... and all that physical activity, of course, calls for a little liquid refreshment from time to time. Well, this year, before you reach for whatever beverage is your personal standby, try something a little different! Whether they're served hot or cold, herbal teas—which are occasionally called "tisanes"—are among the tastiest, least expensive, and most healthful thirst quenchers imaginable.

Unlike most domestic and Asiatic teas, which usually contain caffeine, herbal infusions can be made from fresh ingredients that you gather, mix, and prepare yourself. And the do-it-yourself brews generally aren't caffeinated.

Of course, herbal teas are available in packaged and bag form, but somehow the beverages' full-bodied flavors taste most appealing when the drinks are created with ingredients gathered from field, forest, or backyard herb garden. In fact, the act of foraging plants for herb teas can itself be a fascinating, rewarding hobby ... one which will save you money and provide you with a variety of drinks to delight your taste buds.

Collecting the leaves and flowers of the plants you want to use is the first step in herbal tea production. In most cases it's best to harvest (when the flower buds are fully formed but have not yet unfurled) on a sunny morning after the dew has evaporated. If you wait till midday, you'll lose many of the fragrant oils given off by glands in the stems and leaves, since such delicate secretions are often burned away by the sun.

Once the herbage is harvested, tie it into small, loose clusters, hang them up to dry in the sun for about half an hour, then move them to a shaded area. Prolonged exposure to old Sol's rays will, again, drive off some of the plants' flavorful oils and mute the colors of the herbs, as well. (You can, instead, dry herbs in your oven or in a commercial dehydrator as long as you keep the temperature below 120°F to avoid scorching the tender foliage.) As soon as the plants become brittle, carefully remove the leaves and flower buds (the stems can be saved to add aroma to a dresserful of clothes, or to "spice up" a winter fire).

Store the dried blooms and foliage in glass jars with screw-on lids (or in airtight canisters) until you're ready for a cup of tea. Then prepare the herbal tisane as you would any good commercial brew: First crumble the leaves and blossoms a bit with your fingers (to release an extra burst of fresh flavor) then put the "mix" in the bottom of an earthenware or china teapot. The commonly accepted formula for tea prescribes one teaspoon of dried herbs for each cup of water. Next, pour boiling water into the pot, and let the infusion steep for five to ten minutes. (You can brew individual servings of herb tea by simply placing a teaspoon of crushed leaves in a strainer spoon or in a tea ball, and pouring boiling water over it right in the cup.)





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