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Ah, tea. The ancient drink that causes us to slow down, calm our busy minds, and enjoy the here and now. It awakens all our senses: the rising steam mesmerizes, the heat warms, the smell calms, and as for the sound… to be honest, it’s usually the screaming of a forgotten kettle and me running through the house. 

We all need to slow down. The practice of putting on the kettle, waiting for the boil (obviously I need some work in this area), pouring the steaming water over healing plants, and enjoying in good company or wondrous silence— it is a good way to slow the frantic rhythm of our day and just enjoy the moment. 

There are so many ways to make tea. English breakfast tea in a teacup with cream and sugar. Herbal looseleaf tea in a favorite mug. A teabag carelessly plunked in a random mug. 

I’m going to talk about herbal tea because it is a really easy way to begin your journey as a herbalist. Herbal tea is one of the easiest herbal preparations. It is a very gentle, yet effective way of delivering herbal medicine to the body. Teas are extra effective for treating stomach, kidney, bladder, or intestine conditions because it is absorbed by the digestive system.  

 

What is tea? 

Tea, also know as an infusion, is water that has extracted the medicinal compounds out of the plant. You can make two types of infusions:

  1. Hot infusion
  2. Cold infusion

In a hot infusion (also known as hot tea), the boiling water speeds up the extraction of the plant. A cold infusion (think sun tea or iced tea) takes much more time, since the water is room temperature. It uses the power of gravity in a science called Circulatory Displacement. I don’t understand the details of it, but I have seen it at work. Once I made a cold infusion overnight and let the infuser ball drop to the bottom. In the morning, the color of the water hadn’t changed and it definitely wasn’t tea.

 

Hot infusion vs. cold infusion: which should I use?

If it’s a cold day and you want to cuddle with a mug, make a hot infusion. If it’s summer, you might want to make a cold infusion. Just remember that cold infusions take about 8 hours, so if you’re in a hurry, make a hot infusion. 

Getting more herbal-y and technical, cold infusion is good for plants that are slimy, or demulcent (such as Marshmallow or Slippery Elm), since the boiling water will make them coagulate into a hopeless mess. It is also a gentler way to extract from plants that have volatile oils (such as mint or blossoms). 

Whatever method you use just remember this: don’t use one herb longer than 12 weeks without a break, because your body begins to ignore it and it isn’t as effective as it was in the beginning. Our body likes to be surprised by changes in food and medicine.

 

Loose tea vs. tea bags

Tea bags are a great way to go if you’re starting out but aren’t committed to tea-making. I like Traditional Medicinals’ lineup of herbal teas. But if you want to save money and reduce waste, loose-leaf tea is the way to go. A box of tea bags costs about $4 and contains a little more than a 1/4 cup of herbs. Loose leaf teas from Mountain Rose Herbs are about $10 for a cup of herbs. You can get such a superior quality for about half the cost! Another good reason to use loose-leaf tea is that you end up with more small bits of the plants, which feed the good bacteria in your gut. This allows your gut to absorb even more of the nutrients from your cup of tea.

 

Supplies

  • Tea kettle (or a saucepan) for boiling water
  • A favorite mug
  • A infuser (I use this one from Amazon, and these are really fun for kids!)
  • Herbs or herbal blend of choice (I use herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs and they make wonderful tea blends too).

 

How to make a hot infusion 

To make a cup of hot tea, bring water to a boil.

While it is heating up, put 1-2 Tablespoons of loose herb in your infuser. For a pot, use 4-5 Tablespoons of herb or more, depending on how big your pot is.

Once the water is almost boiling, pour it over your herbs and cover. This keeps the volatile oils from escaping. Let it stand anywhere from 10-30 min. The longer it infuses, the more medicine extracts from the plant. I usually let it infuse until it’s a good drinking temperature. Use it within 24 hours. 

How to make a cold infusion

Put 1 Tablespoon per cup of water in your vessel (I use a mason jar).

I totally made this wrong for the pictures. I put 1T for 1 quart of water. I should have done 4T. Duh.

My helper is cute, but as you can tell from the herbs scattered on the table, he is not super helpful quite yet. Oh well, he will be in a few years.

Make sure the infuser is hanging so gravity can pull out the constituents. Let it sit for 8 hours. I usually make it in the evening and Trent takes it to work with him in the morning. Use within 24 hours.

Keep herbalism alive and make a cup of tea today!

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