Make Time For Tea

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Dried rosemary, calendula and rose petals make a lovely tea

Herbal Teas For Wild Windy Days

Got time for a cup of tea? I’m working on recipes for calming, fragrant, soothing herbals blends that take the edge off our poor overwhelmed nerves. Last week, this little island in the maritime Northwest got about 8 inches of rain, and today seems to be trying for a new record. My phone’s weather app offers gale warnings, mudslide warnings and flood warnings and that’s just for today. Last week, we in the Seattle area were blasted with tornado warnings as well, and though the twister collapsed before it hit land, the rains were truly torrential. The ground is so sodden that the gusty winds brought down trees and power poles all week.

Tornados are not common here-the last one occurred about three years ago, about 15 miles away as the crow flies. That said, nobody was really surprised to get the warnings, as we all know weather patterns are changing faster than predicted. How many hundred year weather events have we had in recent decades? As the UN’s Climate Change Conference reports make clear, climate change is here and the changes are only going to come closer to home, no matter where home might be.

Check Those Storm Drains

If many of my written ramblings start off with something dire these days, it’s a result of checking in with the news first thing in the morning. As a long time news junkie, I’ve had to reduce my exposure radically just to keep my emotional balance in precarious equilibrium. As always, puttering in the garden and going for walks are my sanity restorers, but when those options aren’t possible, too much sitting makes me jumpier than ever. My neighbors are texting back and forth about hip waters and kayaking; the streets in our little mobile home park are running like young rivers and everyone’s clearing leaves from storm drains to minimize flooding.

That’s vital, because mobile homes are not houses as such. Though newer models are actually manufactured homes which are far sturdier, older mobiles like mine have zero wall insulation (plenty under the floor and roof, though). When our crawl spaces flood, molds and mildews can proliferate, especially in older, un-renovated mobiles. That’s part of why we need more and better affordable housing…

About Those Teas

Time for the fragrant cup that soothes! I’m enjoying a delicious blend or peppermint and licorice root, a relaxing yet uplifting combination that makes my neck muscles soften. If at all possible, I encourage everyone to grow at least a few tea herbs, as a pot of home grown herbal tea begins the day in such a gentle, lovely way. Teapot in hand, go out into the garden (even if it’s just a deck or balcony). Breath deeply of the new day as you harvest a pinch here and a handful there. Back in the kitchen, you might add a dash of cinnamon, grated orange rind, or a little nutmeg before pouring in freshly not-quite-boiled water. As the tea steeps, it scents the kitchen and prepares the palate for a cup of pure refreshment. Taking time for tea, making and drinking it in with full attention, helps us stretch out space in our day for relaxation and simple enjoyment. Years ago, as a very busy mom, I realized that time for tea is really time for me. Since that moment of recognition, not a day has passed without making and taking that precious little chunk of undisturbed time.

Herbal teas may involve dozens of combinations, so it’s entertaining play about, trying this partnership and that, letting the scent and savor of each leaf direct your choices. Over time, you’ll develop preferences and favorites which you want to repeat and preserve. Keeping a tea notebook will greatly assist your researches, however casual. You need not take voluminous notes or record every detail of each blend, but nothing is more frustrating than being unable to replicate a recipe you enjoyed. Simple notes, written as you gather and blend, will prompt your memory reliably when you want to repeat your success. Don’t forget to record your reactions to each attempt, even the duds, for your own responses are the best possible guide in the garden as in the kitchen.

Making Herbal Teas

Herbal teas alter with the seasons and the weather: a breezy, sparkling blue morning calls for a cheerful blend of orange mint, raspberry leaves, and lemon balm, while damp, grey afternoons demand a more stimulating brew of anise hyssop, which tastes like mint and red licorice, bolstered with sprigs of spicy bee balm and a bite of sweet-hot cinnamon basil. Lashing downpours call for a brisk, aromatic cup blended from rosemary, lavender, and lemon verbena, a bright, sassy brew that will leave you singing in the rain. The first snow merits a celebratory cup brewed from mashed rose hips, lemon thyme, and a bit of finely chopped licorice root. Evening tensions ease away under the influence of steeped chamomile, red clover, hops, and pineapple sage.

Serious herbalists may combine a dozen herbs in a single blend, carefully balancing emphatic flavors with mellow ones, brightening a deep-toned mixture with brisk citrus and mellow mint, or adding body and depth to light blends with a touch of bitter culinary herbs or ground pepper. However, utterly satisfying teas can be made from simple combinations such as red currant leaves with chamomile, or lemon balm and spearmint. Indeed, some people prefer herbal teas with just one ingredient. It’s wonderful fun to play with enticing combinations, but in the end, your own taste and pleasure should dictate what you put in your tea pot.

Starter Recipes

Here are some delicious ideas to get you started. Each of these recipes starts with chamomile, a great blender of more potent flavors, and each makes enough herbal blend for 1 quart of tea. Place herbs in a teapot, bring water almost to the boil, pour one quart over herbs, cover and let them steep for 5-15 minutes, depending on your preference. Strain and add honey if desired.

Bedtime Brew                    Rosemary Rose Tea

1/4 cup chamomile                1/4 cup chamomile
1/4 cup lemon balm              2 T rosebuds
1 T feverfew                             1 T rosemary
1 t dried hops                          1 T rose hips

Lavender Citrus Tea         Mellow Mint Tea

1/4 cup chamomile                 1/4 cup chamomile
1 T calendula petals                2 T spearmint
1 T lemon peel                         2 T peppermint
1 T orange peel                        1 T chopped licorice root


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