By Justine Maunsell
Eighteen. I just counted up the number of different teas in my pantry and it came to
eighteen. Perhaps a little excessive for a household of only two people, particularly as
only one of us drinks tea!
In this increasingly busy world it can be hard to find small moments of peace. But
the age-old tradition of the humble cup of tea teaches us to slow down. It allows us to
stop, to wait, to sit, to sip, to rest, to chat, to read, to share, to think or to just be...even
if only for a few minutes.
I have a wide variety of teas, but for the most part, my collection is made up of herbal
teas. Herbal teas or ‘tisanes’ are made from infusing the leaves, flowers, bark, roots,
fruits or seeds of herbs in boiling water.
Like fruit and vegetables, the best herbal teas are those which you have grown and
picked yourself. And it might be easier than you think. Here are a couple of my
favourite tea herbs.
Peppermint tea is a tisane made from the leaves of the peppermint plant Mentha
piperita. Peppermint can easily be grown in the garden, but many gardeners tend
to grow it in pots as, like most of the mint family, it has a tendency to spread and
take over the garden. This plant likes to be kept quite moist, so remember to give it
a regular watering, particularly in the warmer times of the year. To make your own
tea, just put a handful of peppermint leaves into a non-metal pot, cover with boiling
water and let it sit for at least five minutes. With its refreshing and uplifting taste,
peppermint tea is a pleasant way to start the day. It’s also said to aid digestion so is
the perfect after dinner drink.
Chamomile tea is a tisane made from the little white and yellow flowers of the
chamomile plant Matricaria recutita. It likes a sunny, well drained spot in the garden
and is an ideal addition to a garden bed of Mediterranean herbs such as lavender,
rosemary, oregano, thyme and sage. Flowering through spring and summer, the
flowers should be picked carefully by hand and then dried in the shade or indoors.
It’s a bit of a time consuming job, but the practice of slowly picking each flower is
somewhat meditative and a jar of home-grown chamomile tea at the end is a just
reward. Put a couple of teaspoons of the dried flowers into a non-metal pot and cover
with boiling water for five minutes, then sip and let your worries drift away. This
tisane is calming and soothing, so is a lovely drink to have before bed to help with a
good night’s sleep.
Lemongrass tea is a tisane made from the leaves of the lemongrass plant
Cymbopogon citratus. This is a tall clumping grass which grows well in warm,
humid environments. To make the tea, pick and chop up a couple of the grass stalks,
then add them to a non-metal pot and cover with boiling water for a few minutes.
Lemongrass is lovely both by itself or mixed with other herbs. Try exploring different
flavours by adding lemon or lime verbena, lemon balm, slices of ginger or a dash of
honey. Lemongrass tea is a warming and soothing drink and can also be chilled as an
iced tea to enjoy during the warmer months.
These are just a few of the many aromatic tea herbs that you can grow yourself. You
only need a small space in the garden or some pots to get started.
Pottering around in the garden and sipping on your own home-grown herbal tea …
surely these are two of life’s most satisfying and simple pleasures!
Justine Maunsell is an Australian writer, environmental communicator and local
food advocate. A lover of gardening, reading and yoga, Justine explores nature,
nourishment, creativity and simplicity on The Solstice Writer.