Tea is something we take for granted. It seems complicated, those mysterious pieces of dried leaves or branches or spices or whatever they are. It must have taken hours of labour to grow and harvest the plants, dry them out, blend the flavors and box them up with soothing packaging copy and labeling. That’s true, but if you’ve got an open mind and a bit of creativity, making your own tasty tea at home is simple and satisfying.
Strictly speaking, “tea” is made by pouring hot water over the dried, crushed leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. Purists maintain that “herbal tea,” such as mint or chamomile, which do not use the tea plant, are not teas are all. Fair enough. But with a bit of ingenuity you have a wealth of tasty and soothing hot beverages at your disposal, and you can call them whatever you want.
All the ideas below can be improved or altered according to your preferences. Add a bit of green or black tea to provide more depth, sweeten them as you wish, or even strip down the ingredients to just one item, and get a strong sense of its flavor characteristics.
Mint tea has a long history in North Africa and Southwestern Europe. And for good reason: mint is a prolific plant that’s easy to grow, and has long been used as medicinal herb to treat stomach aches. Traditional Moroccan mint tea combines green tea with fresh mint leaves and sugar, but you can make your own herbal version simply by pouring hot or cold water over a handful of mint leaves, then stirring in a half-teaspoon of honey. It will soothe your socks off.
Ginger is a root with potent flavor. It has long been used in cooking, as a candy, and in traditional medicines. It also makes a great base for tea. For Ginger-Cinnamon Surprise, grate about a tablespoon of fresh ginger to your tea pot or mug, add a cinnamon stick, and pour hot water over it. Let it sit for eight minutes and voila, relaxation in a cup.
Soothing Citrus Peel Infusion
Anyone who has used the zest of orange or lemon peels to flavor an icing or a glaze knows how intense their flavors are. Citrus peel can be dried, candied or used fresh in so many ways that are more interesting and useful than throwing them in the trash or compost. Why not try tea? Save the peels from orange, mandarin, lemons or limes, or, if you prefer an even fresher vibe, cut two or three wedges from whichever citrus you like best. Pour in boiling water, and stir in a bit of sugar if you like. For a purely lemon version, rub a bit of sugar on a lemon rind, preferably organic, then peel a few slices away and drop them into your tea pot and add hot water. Prepare to be pacified.