Have you ever had an herb tea party? You will need a few pretty tea pots and cups, some edible flowers and herbal cookies.
Think about an herb tea garden! Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little herb area in the sun near the kitchen door where you could snip fragrant pieces of fresh green herbs for tea. This garden would be pretty, fragrant useful and alive about nine months of the year. You can even do this garden in a series of large pots for a deck or patio. It is fun to grow your own herbs to use for tea and you can dry extra at the end of the season to use during the winter. The garden should also have some edible herbal flowers!
I love to pick a few fresh, pieces of whichever herb I want to use and place the sprigs in a teapot. Since I love Earl Gray tea sometimes I add some to the herbs. Some folks like to bruise the leaves so the aromatic oils will more readily be released into the boiling water. With most of the following tea plants, you can just pick off a few leaves whenever you want to make tea. As you pick you will find that a healthy, well cared for plant will constantly grow more new leaves. Having a few of each kind is a good idea, as it will allow the plant to grow in between pickings.
Some herbs are known for their health value and are grown to use for upset stomachs, the onset of a cold or to help one sleep. I know that a tangy pot of lemon balm tea with a slice of lemon on a cold day will really help ward off a cold. Our large patch of lemon balm covers an area under two old holly trees. We pick and pick and pick from spring to late fall and also dry bunches for winter tea.
Herbs can be picked to dry. Just tie up 6 –10 inch stems and hang in a dry spot indoors. When they are crisp and dry place them in brown paper lunch bags and write name and date on bag. Store in a cabinet where it is dry so they will not mold. Then just add a sprig or two of the dry to your pot of tea. It is hard to tell one how much to use, this is matter of personal taste and varies. You will soon develop your own tastes and formula for herb tea.
The following list will discuss a few of the favorite herb teas:
Chamomile - This sweet and also pretty herb is known as the relaxing herb. It is one of the ingredients in most "night time" teas. Roman chamomile is a low growing perennial and German is the self-seeding annual variety with more flowers to pick. They do best in full sun and will grow well in most soils as long as it drains well. For tea, pick the golden flowers any time the white petals appear. Use fresh if you have it. Place on a paper towel or screen for a few days to dry. Store in paper bags or clean jars.
Anise hyssop - This pollinator plant has a licorice flavor and the square stems of the labiate family. The tall spikes of purple-blue flowers are really nice in any perennial garden and attract butterflies and honey bees. The plants are hardy and also reseed so you will have quite a few if you allow them to come back up. It prefers full sun and a rich soil, but here it grown in sand and in the shade. Both the leaves and flowers of this plant for delicious licorice-flavored tea.
Lemon Balm - This is probably my favorite of all the tea herbs! It is easy to grow and readily reseeds and makes a very healthy tea with a distinct lemon aroma. Lemon balm likes somewhat dry soil and partial shade during the day. We grow it out back under holly trees where it is the best ground cover ever, keeping out weeds and yielding plenty of foliage for tea. This is truly an immune boosting tea and one that dispels colds when they are just beginning.
Lemon verbena - People all over love this tea with its wonderful fresh, lemony scent. It is most often added to other teas to impart a lemon scent and flavor. Here in the Delaware valley we have to either bring this one in or treat it as an annual. When I bring them indoors for the winter they most often lose their leaves in January, but I see that all are sending out new leaves from what looked like dead branches. They need full sun and make a wonderful patio plant in a very large pot. Leaves dry well and can be used to cakes and cookies.
Bee Balm (Monarda) - This herb makes a naturally citrus flavored sweet tea, The colonial people learned of this plant from the natives. Legend tells us that it was the tea used after the local Greenwich NJ tea party as well as after the Boston Tea Party as a form of rebellion. Attractive red, pink, or white flowers that look wonderful in the garden and attract both bees and hummingbirds are another plus for this hardy perennial. It enjoys fairly rich, moist soil that is slightly acidic in full sun to partial shade.
Orange mint - Orange mint has a pleasant citrus fragrance and flavor. One of the nicest things about this plant is that it isn't as invasive as most mints. If you're worried you can plant it in a container, but it grows much better in the ground. This mint likes partial to full sun, fairly rich soil, and lots of water. It usually grows about 2 feet tall, but can be harvested at any size for teas. It is also very pretty in the garden as it has deep green purple-tinged leaves and stems and spikes of lavender bloom. Butterflies love the nectar in the blooms
Other mints - There are many varieties of mint each with it's distinct taste: spearmint, peppermint, apple mint or even chocolate mint. Mint will grow indoors in a very cool, sunny window in a huge pot.
Rose Petals & Hips - Colorful rose petals and hips from rosa rugosa will make a citrus-tasting tea that is rich in vitamin C. Most rose plants will create 'hips' but Rugosa roses produce the largest ones. The hips are actually seedpods that form at the base of the rose blooms. To make tea with rose hips slice them in half before steeping. Rugosa roses are hardy and cold tolerant and do not need spray which is important consideration for tea plants. These roses will grow just about anywhere in the sun.
Lavender - Lavender is useful in any sunny garden and the butterflies like it too. Most Lavender will grow 2 or 3 feet tall in well-drained soil and direct sun. It is not often used for tea, but can be added to Earl Gray for a party tea. It does make a floral tasting tea that also blends well with other herbs (like chamomile).
There are 100’s of other herbs that can also be made into teas.
Edible flowers in the tea garden can make tea time a party. Fill the blooms of holly hocks, nasturtium and glads with a sour cream dip. Place pansy blooms on cakes or cookies. Toss calendula petals or nasturtium blooms in salads ! Tiny rose buds or small carnations are also safe to use on cakes and in a punch. Pretty tea sandwiches can be made with chicken salad, egg salad or tuna salad. freshly chopped parsley, dill, thyme, and chives are all really good with these salads. fruit salad with some mint leaves in also good.