What is “Herbal Tea”?
This tends to be a rather nebulous term with quite a bit under the umbrella. The actual tea plant is called Camelia sinensis. It is where we get black, green, and white tea. The difference in color is dictated by when it is picked. Not all “tea” is made with this plant.
Traditional tea may be medicinal (green tea has long been used for a number of ailments) but be sure to include only Camelia sinensis, a medicinal tea may include both tea and herbs, but an herbal tea or tisane will only contain herbs. Camelia sinensis contains caffeine (and if you’ve been reading for a while you’ll know my views on the over-use of caffeine). We often have customers who ask us which one of our herbal teas contain caffeine. It is easy to see how this issue has gotten all tangled up.
Today I share my top tips for enjoying your best cup of herbal tea.
3 Tips for Making Great Herbal Tea
1. Make your tea in a quart jar.
We sell all our teas on our farm in looseleaf form. The most common question we get is if we sell a tea ball to go with it. I have to confess that I HATE tea balls. If you’ve read my post from last week on the benefits of loose leaf tea, you’ll know that it is important for your tea to float freely. Tea balls squish your tea leaves together and when they expand with water, you’re not likely to get a very good tea. Over the years I’ve invested in a number of tea infusers and strainers, but in the end my hands down favorite is the simple mason jar.
The great thing about using a mason jar is that most people have one or two in their kitchen. Add your tea to the jar, pour in hot water, and cover. That’s all it takes to get a healthy and tasty tea!
2. A regular kitchen strainer will do!
Once your tea is made in a simple mason jar all you need is a small mesh strainer. I love re-purposing tools that I already have. If you’re straining a tea that has really fine particles, line your strainer with a bit of paper towel.
3. Understand the difference between an infusion and a decoction.
The average tea drinker is used to the process of making tea with a tea bag. This is the same basic process that herbalists call an infusion. An infusion is typically done with a tea that is made up of flowers, leaves or fruit. For a medicinal infusion, pour hot water over the tea, cover it and allow it to steep for at least 10-15 minutes.
The tea that the average tea drinker is not as familiar with is a decoction. A decoction is done with a tea that is made up of nuts, bark, or roots. It’s not as easy to get taste or benefit out of these tougher materials. For that reason a medicinal decoction is typically covered with cold water in a covered pot and brought to a simmer on the stove. After at least 10-15 minutes the decoction is strained and is ready to drink.
The truth is that even with a good quality tea, unless you are making it properly you won’t get the best cup possible. Follow these tips to be sure to get your money’s worth!