Growing and Making your own Fresh Tea

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Now that summer’s heating up, my herb garden is in full swing. Some herbs have already flowered and others are just starting to bloom. Many of my herbs have grown so big that it’s time for them to have a generous haircut; others just need to have a light trimming.

My kids love to help me trim my herbs; after all there are so many great smells and tastes, it’s an irresistible task. We usually trim my herbs in the morning just after the dew has dried but before the heat kicks into high gear.

Our favorite herbs to trim are the herbs we use to make fresh tea. We consider this a great bonus of my herb garden. If you’ve never had fresh herb tea, it’s definitely something you should try. It’s easy and delicious!

It’s best to start by considering what tastes you like. I love lemon and mint, so I grow lemon balm, lemon verbena, lemon thyme and a few different types of mint. I also love the calming properties of lavender, so I’ve got some of that too. I find all of these herbs easy to grow in both containers and the garden, but you do have to take precautions with the mints. They can be invasive, so I grow them in large containers or in place that needs a ground cover.

If your “cup of tea” isn’t lemon or mint, there are lots of other herbs that make great teas including: bee balm, German chamomile, lemongrass, pineapple sage or any other variety of sage and rosemary. A pinch of Stevia will add sweetness to your tea, but don’t use too much or it adds a bitter taste.

Lemon Balm is a member of the mint family and grows rapidly. I usually cut mine back once or twice a season to keep it under control.

Once you’ve got the plants, the rest is easy. There are no prescribed rules. It’s mostly personal preference. My kids and I like to mix and match our herbs depending on how we feel that day. One of our favorites is to combine lemon balm and lemon verbena with a sprig or two of lavender.  This year we added citrus mint to our garden, and that makes a fabulous tea by itself or with a hint of lemon or lavender.

After we’ve cut our herbs, we bring them in and rinse them off gently in the sink. Then, we fill our kettle with cool water and let it come to a rolling boil. We set it aside to cool down for a few minutes and place our fresh herbs in the teapot. Then we pour our hot water over the leaves and let them steep. There is no set time for steeping and no set rule for the amount of herbs you use; it all depends on your taste. The longer you steep and the more herbs you use, the stronger the flavor. (The rule of thumb is for a 6 cup teapot, you’ll need about one cup of fresh herbs.) Once you’re finished, strain out the leaves and serve as you like; maybe with a little fresh honey.

Since it’s summer, my kids and I usually like to keep things on the simple side, so a lot of times, we shuck all the formal tea-making and make herbal sun tea by steeping herbs in a glass container filled with cold water. Sometimes we’ll also stick a tea bag or two of our favorite store-bought blend in with our herbs to add even more flavor. We set the container on our sunny front steps for a few hours and soon have tasty herbal sun tea.

This sun tea mixture includes lemon balm, lemon verbena, lavender, citrus mint and a couple decaf tea bags.

We love the taste of our homegrown and homemade teas; they make the lazy days of summer pass by with a sprig of pizzazz!

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