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Herbs for Tea Time by Alicia Frosini

Tea herbs, also known as herbal tisanes, are a wonderful and aromatic addition to an herb garden. They can be enjoyed fresh all summer long with their cooling properties and can also be dried and stored for cold winter days ahead. These aromatic herbs entice many pollinators with their sweet nectar, yet one more reason for growing these delightful and delicious herbs.

Here are some of my personal favorites.

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

A perennial herb that is best placed in the background of a garden as it can grow up to 4 feet tall. The leaves have a licorice mint flavor and make a naturally sweet herbal tisane on their own or when blended with other herbs. Anise Hyssop makes a nice children’s tea and also has benefits for respiratory and digestive systems.

Parts used: flowering aerial parts

Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) [Tulsi, in Hindu]

A uniquely flavored tisane with a hint of spice and lemon. Kapoor, Krishna, and Rama are the different Tulsi tea varieties, each having their own flavor and growth habits. Holy Basil is grown as an annual and requires full sun. It loves the heat and takes drought well. Holy Basil is a tea herb from the Ayurvedic tradition that has many healing qualities—it is uplifting to the spirit, helpful with anxiety and improves digestive and immune health. Try it iced or as a warm beverage and remember to dry the leaves and flowers for wintertime teas.

Parts used: leaves and flowers

Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triplylla)

Another must-have herb for the tea garden, Lemon Verbena, is considered a tender perennial (hardy zones 9 and 10) and many Northerners winter it indoors. You can dry the leaves all summer for wintertime teas and potpourri and plant anew each spring. Verbena loves full sun and becomes a 3-4’ shrub when given rich soil and adequate water. It makes a very uplifting tea and combines well with mints and other lemony herbs (including lemon balm and lemongrass). Verbena also blends well with Hibiscus flowers for a cooling summertime tea.

Parts used: leaves

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

There are many varieties of Lavender available such as Lady Lavender or the hardy Munstead, an English lavender that is winter-hardy up to -20F. The aromatic foliage, buds, and flowers can be used in tea and add a lovely sweetness when combined with other herbs. Lavender blends nicely with Holy Basil and lemony herbs. A cooling and aromatic tea, it also is helpful with insomnia and nervousness.

Parts used: flowers, buds, and leaves

Harvesting herbs in the morning before the sun dries the oils is best. My most enjoyable summer ritual is walking through the garden with my harvest basket and choosing the herbs that will be my blend for the day. Remember that when harvesting fresh herbs to brew you will need more than when brewing dried herbs. For fresh you will need about one tablespoon per cup and for dried about one teaspoon per cup. Enjoy.

Alicia Frosini is the owner of Sugar Loaf Mountain Herbs which sells fresh potted herbs and seed in season as well as a wide array of bulk herbs, spices, organic teas and tisanes, body care and supplements. Books also are available and workshops are offered throughout the year. The shop is located at 1361 C Kings Hwy. in Sugar Loaf. For more information, contact 469-6460 or visit SugarLoafHerbs.com.

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