Monday, January 28, 2013

Spring in a Cup

I've talked about how in my very early days of learning to work with herbs, I started a gallon jar containing pinches and handfuls of all the herb tea-worthy plants and flowers that I'd gathered and dried over a spring, summer, and fall.  It was included as an article in The Essential Herbal Magazine during the first year.  After adding just a few ingredients that didn't come from my yard, or woods, or the gardens of friends, the following winter was spent enjoying cups that never tasted the same way twice. 
It was a wonderful lesson in blending because not one cup was not enjoyable.
I highly recommend it to new herbies.  It will boost your confidence and teach you more than you'd imagine.  Researching all the additions, tasting them, recognizing their flavors or even sometimes their effects; all these things are learned in this pleasant exercise.

This technique is not for any specific medicinal value (obviously) but it can feel very symbolic drinking a cup while remembering finding a certain ingredient while hiking with a good friend, that perfectly sunny spring day when the violets were everywhere, or the beebalm bursting with blossoms under the hot summer sun.  
But I never had a specific list or pictures before.  These ingredients are kept in separate containers (because nowadays they are used for lots of different things) until used in a blend.

Today I set out to create a special tea for a project.  The day was one of those where a bit of snow is on the ground with a wintry misty mix attempting to fight through the dense fog that rests between the rises of the earth.  Gloomy.
This calls for Spring flowers, fruits, mint and more.  I will list the ingredients as I went along, and am proud to say that only a few were not hand-gathered and/or dried here in my kitchen and yard.

I started with the flowers.  This winter day definitely needed blossoms.  They included:
Whole violets, rose petals, lavender, elderblossom, chamomile, calendula petals, bee balm blossoms, and centauria petals.  Pretty and fragrant.
Next came the dried berries and fruits.  Home-dried blueberries (chopped), raspberries, pineapple bits, orange peel, and let's add minced ginger to this category.
To round it out, a couple handfuls of spearmint, a handful of lemon verbena, some holy basil, and a tiny amount of stevia.  Two crushed geranium leaves for fragrance and it was time to try a cup.
Nothing wrong with a pale cup, but in this case it needed more zing. 
Hmmm.... needs a little body.  This is where the items that arrive here in bags come into the mix.  A small amount of vanilla bean, cardamom seed, and cinnamon bark round it out perfectly.
I'm always on the lookout for random containers.  You just never know...
The tea darkened with further steeping.  It tastes delicious.
Sometimes it can require many tastes along the way before a cup tastes just right, so it is very important to keep a notepad nearby to record as you go.  I was very tempted to add a little green or black tea, but refrained to keep it as much as my own ingredients as possible.  And I'm pretty pleased with the results.

Don't be afraid to blend up some herb teas. Just keep the quantity small, taste test as you go, and have fun. Two ingredients or twenty, it can be lots of fun.


Madison Woods said...

Now I'll have to run downstairs and make myself a cup of tea. You've inspired me to gather up some ingredients this year, but for now I'll use the old standby's in the pantry :)

Anonymous said...

Love it Tina!
When I first started studying herbs, I couldn't play enough. I often forget to label things in my tea cupboard, so sometimes it would be fun to try and guess what something was.
When the years pass by, sometimes the deeper study and the headiness of needing to understand biochemical functions of plants makes one loose site of the sensual aspects of the plants.
I shall enjoy a cup of experimental tea tonight.