Nothing re-charges the batteries like a quiet sit down with a cup of tea. However, long gone are the days of the standard tea-bag with bits of leaves that have travelled somewhere from somewhere in India.
Tea culture has flourished as more is being discovered and understood about traditional brews from all over the world. And now, as if turning full circle, tea has once again become medicine. These days there are a number of exotic infusions to choose from that claim to heal and cure more than a broken heart and the need to put our feet up.
Ironically, if we had actually paid more attention to the shamans and witch doctors of old, we may even be further along in our understanding of the natural benefits often sitting hidden in the flowers and leaves of our own gardens.
Better late than never perhaps.
Non-traditional teas take a little more time to prepare, but they are easy to make and taste great hot or cold. If you are making an infusion from fresh ingredients, leave the hot water and plants pieces to steep for about 10 minutes, and cover the top of the pot or cup. Many of these remarkable flowers and herbs contain natural oils that can escape into the air via steam if they are allowed to, and whilst that makes your house smell great, it won’t give you the full benefit of what you are brewing up.
To turn them into refreshing iced- teas, simply brew up a batch, add any sweetener you wish, pop it into the fridge and pour it over ice when the spirit moves you.
Here are a few well respected healthy herbal infusions that you can grow in your own home.
This fantastically versatile grass is brilliant in Asian cooking, and equally great as a calming, life affirming cuppa.
Widely available in most SE Asian grocery stores, but easy to grow yourself, Lemongrass can assist to lower blood pressure, relieve anxiety and aid digestion.
It grows easily in a pot, so if you have a balcony or even a room that gets plenty of light, you can grow it in a flat as well as in the ground. Be careful when you buy a new plant however as it looks very similar to citronella grass, which is great for keeping insects at bay but disgusting as a drink !!!
Lemongrass tea bought in the store is usually made with the woody stems of the plant, but growing it at home means that you have more options. To make fresh, green Lemongrass tea straight from the garden, take a handful of the long blades of grass and cut them into sections of around 10-15 cm (2-2.5 inches) long, gently bruise them using a mortar and pestle, or just by twisting them in your hand. Add hot water to the grass, and, if you like, a small amount of sweetener, cane sugar or anything you fancy. Lemon grass can also be added to other tea infusions for a citrusy zing. An added bonus to having this plant on hand is that you can also pop a few sections of fresh lemongrass into a warm bath for a satisfying, soothing soak.
Lavender has been used as a sleep aid and disinfectant since….well….forever. It also makes a delicious tea (and an astoundingly yummy ice cream). In case you are worried about drinking a tea that smells too much like soap, rest assured, homemade lavender tea made from the pretty purple flowers release a much milder scent, and much less essential oils than the amount required to make lotions. Dried lavender is widely available, and three heaped teaspoons of the dried flowers steeped in 500-750 ml of boiled water and left for 10 minutes will be enough for a couple of decent sized cups. If you are using the fresh flowers instead of dried, the taste will be quite mild and you may want to add another teaspoon or two. There are many varieties of lavender, and some are designed specifically for the cosmetics industry. If you are using dried lavender, you must look for a product named as ‘Culinary lavender’. It’s far more pleasant to drink. The plant itself likes to be in a raised bed outside, and can be grown easily in pots and happily indoors. One often not talked about benefit to drinking fresh lavender tea is that it is known to cut down on gas and bloating, so if someone in your house could do with a little…relief…..shall we say, this is an excellent addition to your garden.
It seems obvious, but if you like peppermint tea and you have access to fresh air and water, you never need to buy it in tea-bag form ever again. Mint is extremely hardy and can be grown in a pot in your kitchen, in a mug, or outside anywhere. Basically, it grows like a weed. In fact, leave it in the ground and it will take over your garden entirely. The oil from mint that is used in everything from toothpaste to sweets is easily harvested, and the flavour of fresh mint is mild and mellow. Once you have a few leaves promulgated on your plant, simply pull them off, crush them gently in your hands and steep in boiling water for around 10 minutes. Remember, as with all fresh teas, you need to use a cover to keep all the goodness inside.
Mint is great for digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome and as an anti-spasmodic, it helps if you are feeling nauseous or vomity, or even if you suffer from cramps. Add a few pieces of lemongrass to the mint leaves and voila !!! You have now created your own home made tisane (which is a fancy word for infusion, which is a fancy word for cup-of-tea).
While companies out there rightfully make a pretty penny by wrapping dried leaves and flowers in nice paper and fancy boxes, in truth, growing your own medicinal infusion is easy, cheap and rewarding. You know nothing is added unless you want it to be, and you gain the satisfaction of knowing you are taking your own health back into your own hands.
Nothing restores the soul like a moment of downtime, so pop the kettle on, open up a packet of biccies, and let’s share a drink to your health.