The list of herbs you can use for tea is lengthy, using their applications crossing over from pure culinary enjoyment to folk treatment and healing. Here are a few all-time beverage favorites, from South African natives to North American natives and lots of others you may want to try.
Starting with the mints (Mentha spp.) , a fun, occasionally hard-to-find variety is banana mint. While the common name for a number of plants uses the term “banana” to explain color or form, banana mint actually gets the aroma of bananas. Chocolate mint is another favorite. Children marvel repeatedly at how sniffing a plant growing in their own gardens smells like a chocolate peppermint patty. The citrus-scented mints: lime mint, orange mint and lemon juice, make especially yummy iced teas. Menta piperita, spearmint, and ginger mint, of course, are better-known candy flavours for both cold and hot beverages. Mints are often grown in pots or some type of contained area due to their rampant ability to disperse, and favor a great deal of surface area versus thickness for their growing region. They’re hardy perennials and can usually take partial shade.
Another South African native that grows in Europe and the US is the scented geranium (Pelargonium spp.) . It was introduced to Europe in the 1600s where its popularity spread. Although it resembles actual geraniums, it’s actual not a geranium in any respect, yet it’s in the same botanical family. The leaves offer more tea flavors to pick from than the mints, such as apricot, strawberry, apple, rose, lemon, vanilla, licorice, and coconut. Scented geraniums are tender perennials which may be grown in containers and moved inside or covered in winter.
German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Camomilla romana (Chamaemelum nobile) have been infused to tea, dating back thousands of years to the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. It’s fairly easy to grow, typically already well-known to prospective customers, and provides a minor apple-like aroma. Although legend claims that Peter Rabbit has been given Roman chamomile, German chamomile is the most popular variety used for tea, and just the flowers, without the leaves or stalks, are used for this purpose.
Limone Verbena and Lemon Balm
Two more lemony favorites include lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla), and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). Lemon verbena is a tender perennial stated to possess the best lemon taste of the whole plant kingdom, reminiscent of lemon drops, which makes a excellent lemonade iced tea. Lemon balm, though, a native to the Mediterranean and cultivated there for close to 2000 years, also has its own loyal followers who insist its odor is quite beautiful. It’s hardier than verbena, and while its top will perish in chilly winters, the roots return new expansion. Its native habitat extends to western Asia, southwestern Siberia, and northern Africa, and it’s headquartered in North America and other locations. Bees love its blossoms.
Hibiscus (Abelmoschus moschatus) is a tender perennial with a tasty sour flavor and crimson red color. The Pharaohs of the ancient Nile Valley drank it, as did many civilizations around the world, including those of China, Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe. Hibiscus grows profusely in Africa (as well as the Caribbean and Hawaii). In temperate climates it can be grown in pots to bring covered or inside in winter. The flowers are more often used for making tea, with leaves sometimes used, although leaves give it a more ‘green’ taste.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is another tender perennial. Its flavor for a tea is described as having hints of ginger and very pungent. Both its leaves and flowers are used for tea. Long ago, people were well acquainted with rosemary that was associated with remembrance, fidelity and love. And it’s many folk remedies attributed to it.
There are many, many more herbs to choose from: pineapple sage and bee balm to mention only a few. And don’t forget the organic strawberries, raspberries, dandelions and roses you might already have growing in your garden or as a farm crop. Fragola and raspberry leaves create flavorful and healthy beverages. The Native Americans on the island in which this writer lives have shown me the way they use a sprig of native wild rose to make a tea that they used for respiratory disorders. Rosehip tea and dandelion root tea are regarded as a very healing drink.
Be sure all herbs used for consumption are protected from sprays or other contaminants, and also check the local authorities for regulations on growing and selling any food item.
Once you dive into the mystery, history and legend of herbal tea, it can be tempting to experiment with making tea from unidentified or even well-loved garden crops. But some of our backyard favorites, like the foliage, roots and blossom of rhubarb, and those fragrant sweet peas, are considered toxic or poisonous if consumed. Be alert to potential allergies, too, and stick to the documented tea herbs, as herbal teas from every continent and every civilization throughout humanity’s history (and prehistory) will offer a treasury to choose from that can survive, and improve, a lifetime.