by Sandy Swegel
I learned to think outside the box yesterday…outside the tea box that is. All this summer heat has me drinking lots of iced tea trying to cool down. I traditionally get my tea from a box. Boulder tea company Celestial Seasonings makes an awesome variety of herb teas, especially the zingers, that are full of flavor. Luzianne Tea from the grocery story is my tea of choice for making the Southern Sweet Tea I grew up with. (1 quart of water, 4 black tea bags, 1 c sugar, lemons). But my clever gardening friend Barbara walked me through the garden yesterday, introducing me to a new use for plants I was already growing.
Citrus flavors are the most obvious to use. I had tried some of the lemony herbs before…but anything with lime or lemon in its name is a great choice. I quickly learned to smell the foliage to get an idea if it would be tasty. If I didn’t have Barbara with me, I might have googled the herb first to make sure it was edible.
For our iced tea party, I made several teas from single ingredients…a lemon verbena tea, a mint tea, and a basil tea. We then tried the flavors alone and mixed some together. Teas with a combination of herbs had more interest and depth but my favorite ended up being the lemon verbena with a splash of mint!
Citrus Flavors Lemon Basil, Cinnamon Basil, Lemon Verbena, Lemon Balm, Lemon Grass
Mint flavors Chocolate Mint, Peppermint, Garden variety mint, Monarda fistula (minty with a light citrus tone).
Other herbs Anise, Fennel
Edible flowers I made the Elderflower and Queen Anne’s Lace teas a few weeks back when they were still in young bloom. Elderflowers Queen Anne’s Lace Rose Hips
Extras to add Sweetener: honey, agave, liquid stevia or sugar. Citrus slices: lemons, limes, oranges Ginger slivers Mint sprigs
The basic recipe is about the same for all the teas. We’re making the tea for flavor not for medicinal use so it won’t be as strong as herbal concoctions. Barbara just puts her herbs in a jar, covers with hot tap water and lets it sit overnight. I don’t plan ahead as well, so I made simple hot teas and then refrigerated and later filled with ice cubes.
Basic Herbal Iced Tea Recipe 1 T leaves per cup water Boiling water. Steep 5 minutes Strain. I made the teas double strength to compensate for the ice cubes melting.
We set the teas out on the table with honey and sliced lemons and slivers of ginger and let everyone mix and match to find their favorite.
Go forth and experiment!