For many of us, our morning or afternoon cup of tea comes from a package; maybe one of those with a little saying on it to inspire us throughout the day. We choose various flavors and blends that will help us relax, rejuvenate and rest. However, herbal tea can be much more than just a package you find at the store. Making your own tea using herbs from the garden is something any backyard gardener can do!
During a warm spring afternoon, herbalist Stefanie Bierman, Owner and Founder of New Jersey-based tea company Smiling Earth Elixirs, gave me a tour of her backyard garden where she grows everything from lemon balm and motherwort to schisandra berries, echinacea and calendula. But what makes her garden extra special? She uses these herbs to create her own tea mixes and beauty products.
The Benefits of Homemade Herbal Tea
“I like drying my own herbs instead of buying them because the flavor, smell and benefits are much stronger,” says Bierman. Despite the ease of tossing that pre-made tea sachet into a hot glass of water, it turns out that creating your very own unique tea blends right at home is a lot simpler (and more creative) than what you find every day at the store.
Here are Bierman’s tips for growing, drying and mixing your own herbal tea:
To start, she suggests planting a variety of your favorite herbs, especially ones that are native to New Jersey, such as the perennial echinacea and lemon balm, which Bierman compared to mint as it tends to grow “like crazy.”
Once you have your herbs, flowers, berries and roots growing, it’s time to dry them using either a solar dehydrator or electric dehydrator. According to Bierman, it’s important to do your research and find out the optimum way to dry your herbs before you begin. Some herbs such as flowers should not be dried in the sun because they’ll lose their essential oils, while herbs such as sage may take two days to dry because of its “furry leaf,” and mint may take less than a day.
Using Dry Herbs
Bierman suggests drying the herbs in larger pieces and then crunching them up later before use. Larger pieces of the herbs will also keep for longer than ground-up pieces. As for berries, they should be blanched first and then dried, while roots should be dried in a room with good ventilation and low humidity. Dried herbs, just like those used for spices, will keep their oils for 3-6 months if stored in a cool, dry place, preferably in a glass jar with an airtight seal.
“Once I dry the herbs, I sell them within three months while keeping them out of the light to reduce oxidization,” said Bierman. “I also tell my clients to enjoy the tea within three months of purchase for maximum flavor and benefit.”
Bierman suggests using either washable muslin bags or unbleached bags made of all natural plant fibers made in the US. “Since you’re adding the herbs to hot water, you really don’t want anything such as chemicals; or plastic leaching out into your tea,” she adds.
Just Add Water
As for enjoying your tea straight from the garden, keep this in mind; always use high quality water that is brought to a near boil instead of a rolling boil. Most herbal tea can steep for up to 30 minutes, however green tea should only be steeped for three minutes. Bierman said her teas can last all day, just keep adding water to your cup. She even suggests ripping the bag open and adding it to a strainer to increase the flavor.
If you’re looking for suggestions on what teas to create, look no further than two of Bierman’s most popular Smiling Earth Elixirs tea blends including Tranquil Tummy and D/Toxic Avenger. Tranquil Tummy features a calming blend of chamomile, peppermint, licorice and marshmallow. The D/Toxic Avenger uses a blend of herbs such as echinacea, lemongrass and burdock root; these help support the liver and may help aid the body in detoxifying.
If you’re looking for the most potent and flavorful herbal tea possible, the answer is right in your own backyard!
Hero (Top) Feature Image courtesy: © fortyforks / Adobe Stock
Additional Body Images (In Order) Courtesy:
Smiling Earth Elixirs
Lukas Gojda / Adobe Stock