|Written By Lara Wadsworth
Tea of some kind has been drunk somewhere in the world for at least 5,000 years. This simple yet comforting drink is ingrained in human culture. However, there are so many different kinds of tea and ways to make it that it can be confusing and overwhelming. Since tea usually has only two ingredients, water, and dried leaves, it makes sense that the quality of ingredients is one of the most essential aspects when making a good cup of tea. Growing and drying your own tea leaves is truly the best way to ensure the highest quality is achieved.
Brewing the best tea starts with using the freshest harvest. Harvest your herb branches for tea before the plant flowers. This will ensure maximum flavor quality by preserving the natural oils that give herb and tea leaves the aroma and flavors we love. After harvesting, do not wash the leaves unless some kind of pesticide has been used on them. This will introduce too much water and may cause the leaves to mold instead of dry.
The Drying Process
The plants can take a week or more to dry, depending on the humidity level. Avoid high temperatures above 80 F. Letting them dry in high heat will diminish the natural oils and compromise flavor and benefits. To air dry, tie the branches with twine in small batches and hang them upside down in a well-ventilated area. Or, take a clean window screen and lay it to dry on that. Avoid drying the herbs in the oven, as this is not optimal for tea. If you are looking for something quicker than air drying, consider using a dehydrator. Once the leaves have fully dried, remove them from the stems and store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
Brewing Homemade Tea
When you are ready to brew, use an infuser of some kind that allows you to control how strong the tea becomes. For single servings, we recommend using a simple tea bag. Fill each bag with a single type of herb, or create your own custom blend. These bags can be prepared ahead of time for a quick cup of tea or prepared on the fly. Just remember to keep prepared tea bags in a sealed container for the best results. Let the bags steep for 5-10 minutes before drinking. For larger batches consider using a quart jar or half gallon jar tea and coffee filter. These allow you to prepare large batches of fresh, custom tea all at once.
Types of Tea
Besides ensuring the highest quality of tea leaves by growing and brewing them at home, you can also choose your own combinations for specific benefits. Below are listed some common tea types, popular herbs, and their uses or advantages. Mix and match the different herbs to create the perfect concoction to suit your needs and taste preferences.
Herbal tea is one of the most popular types of tea made around the world. This is because of the many natural benefits plants have regarding their ability to heal, energize, and calm our bodies. Different combinations can be used to target specific bodily needs such as healing ailments, balancing emotions, and increasing mental focus and clarity. While modern medicine is imperative to maintaining good health, there is something to be said for the centuries of natural healing, restoration, and defense achieved by utilizing the naturally occurring substances all around us. Below, you will find some of the most popular plants for herbal teas and some of their benefits.
Chamomile - More than just a beautiful flower, this calming herb is used to help people wind down after a long day or to reduce anxiety.
Lavender - One of the most aromatic of all herbs, Lavender has calming and restorative effects for the mind and body. Known for improving sleep quality and easing menstrual cramps, this hardy herb is useful in any home.
Echinacea - Also known as the purple coneflower, echinacea has immune system-boosting benefits. Drink this when you think you’re getting sick; many say it lessens and shortens common cold symptoms.
Lemon Grass - This stress-relieving tea ingredient is a great one to mix with other herbs. It is said to boost immunity, aid in lowering cholesterol, and help with healthy weight loss.
Borage - Best known for soothing coughs and sore throats, it can also improve digestion and metabolism. In addition, it has benefits for the nervous system.
Peppermint - Peppermint tea helps with digestion and weight loss, as well as helps to improve short-term cognition and alertness.
Yarrow - Yarrow is a lesser-used herb but has huge benefits. It soothes abdominal muscles, helping with menstrual and digestive cramps as well as helping with a multitude of bodily aches and pains. It was even used traditionally to lower fevers and headaches.
Calendula - Another flower with powerful benefits, calendula has been shown to help with acid reflux and bowel inflammation. It also has antioxidants that can fight cancer in large doses.
Camellia sinensis, otherwise known as true tea, green tea, or black tea, brews a caffeinated beverage popular worldwide for its brain-boosting benefits. Green tea is when the leaves are harvested young, and black tea is from the mature leaves.
Did you know that you can even soak dried mushrooms in hot water to create tea? This is a unique way to enjoy the benefits of various mushrooms applauded for medicinal benefits, without becoming a master mushroom chef.
Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a tea enthusiast, it is easy to pick up the hobby of growing and brewing your own tea. The earth has provided us with an abundance of health and wealth. Herbs and teas are an easy way to tap into that vast resource from your own home.
|Lara Wadsworth, True Leaf Market Writer
I am a native of Southwestern Michigan, where I also reside, and I love all things plants! I got a Bachelor's Degree in Horticulture and found the first work-from-home job I could get. Now, I spend my days writing for TLM, playing with my dog, eating delicious food with my husband, and plotting my next landscape or gardening move. I believe everyone should get down and dirty in the soil now and then. Happy Gardening!
About the Author
I'm Ashleigh Smith, a native to Northern Utah. I first gained a love of gardening with my grandmother as I helped her each summer. I decided to make a career of it and have recently graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Horticulture from Brigham Young University - Idaho. My studies have focused on plant production while I also have experience in Nursery & Garden Center Operations.
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