It’s National Tea Day today, so I thought I’d share my five favourite homegrown, herbal teas and how I grow them. They are so easy to grow and frugal too.
I love herbal tea. Apart from the occasional treat of a hot chocolate, it is the only hot cuppa I drink. I gave up coffee at the beginning of 2020 and stopped drinking ordinary tea when I has pregnant with my eldest daughter, over eighteen years ago. I couldn’t stand the taste anymore. Herbal tea has definitely been my favourite choice ever since. Plus I can grow it.
My favourite five herbal teas
I’m not going to list the benefits or precautions and would advise you to look the most recent research up before you start your herb growing journey. Instead, I’m going to tell you about the ones I love to drink. Sometimes I combine two of them, to vary the taste. Best of all, I love the fresh leaves straight from the garden.
Given the right conditions, most herbs will keep coming back each year. In fact some will take over if you’re not careful. It is certainly worth the effort to have your own homegrown herbal tea. Also the leaves can be composted afterwards,, which makes it an eco friendly choice.
Quick note that you should always be 100% confident that the plant is the herb you think it is and also that it has not been sprayed with something horrible. Growing at home means you can rest easy.
I love mint. It is so refreshing. This is the one I drink the most. There are different varieties and I grow several types. I find peppermint, spearmint and apple mint grow very successfully in my garden. I’ve tried chocolate mint, pineapple mint, Moroccan mint and others, but I find peppermint and spearmint the best.
You can buy mint as a plant, but if you have a friend with a plant, it is really easy and thrifty to take cuttings. I take a cutting about 2 to 4 inches long, remove the lower leaves and put the cuttings in water. Once they sprout long roots, it’s time to pop the cutting in a pot of soil and let nature do the rest.
Mint will take over your garden, if you give it half a chance. I plant mine out in big tubs. It won’t take long for baby plants to grow in the tubs. These can be transferred to new pots and grown on. Or given away to friends.
I take a couple of inches new growth of the top of the mint and put it in my tea infuser (like these one – affiliated link), but you could also use a muslin bag or leave it loose in the cup or teapot. Add hot water and let it steep or brew for about five minutes. Remove the leaves and it’s ready to drink.
My number one favourite is elderflower, plucked straight from the tree. It is obviously a seasonal choice, as it only flowers in spring for a short time, but I love the floral flavour. I cut a sprig where the flowers have just opened, shake off the insects and pop it flowers first into my cup. (photo at top) Add hot water and let it steep as before. Remove the sprig and drink.
I originally grew my fennel from seeds, but it self seeds very easily, so this is one that a friend may be more than happy to pass on to you. I take a bunch of the fresh leaf fronds and treat them the same way as mint. It tastes like a mixture of liquorice and aniseed.
Lemon balm and lemon verbena
These are two different herbs that both taste and smell of lemon. I often combine them with mint or fennel. Even the fresh leaves of the blackcurrant bush. I use these in cooking too.
Lemon verbena was the first herb I ever grew, back when I was a teen, so I do have a soft spot for it. Give it shelter and warmth and it will grow huge. My parents grow my original plant in a lean-to greenhouse with an east facing stone wall. I have less luck. Lemon balm on the other hand grows like mint and has the uncanny resemblance to nettles.
You need the right kind of lavender for tea. Not all lavender works well as tea. I find some taste too strong. They taste like perfume and not in a nice way. I find the English lavenders are good. I put a bunch of flowers in a tea strainer with maybe a few lemon balm leaves or chamomile flowers.
Lavender plants are easy to buy. Alternatively, I take a soft wood cutting before the flower buds start and pop them in soil with growth hormone. I’ve increased my stock of plants successfully this way. A good job as we often craft with lavender.
It’s such a treat, after the winter to have my own homegrown herbal tea again, as the flavour is more zingy than the dried variety. There are so many different herbs to choose from apart from the ones I’ve listed. Have fun experimenting with different herbs, but please be careful to do your research first.