What’s not to love about herbal tea?
It smells great.
It tastes even better.
And it makes you feel incredible, can elevate your mood and have a whole host of other health benefits (but more on that later).
Plus, it’s a really good way of cutting down on the amount of caffeine you drink.
Ever since we started growing these plants, it’s all we’ve been drinking at the office. We can’t get enough of it! (And we think you’re going to love it too.)
And while the supermarket shelves are full of boxes and boxes of herbal tea bags, there’s nothing quite like making your own from fresh herbal tea plants.
Take it from us, the moment that you pick your first leaves, steep them in hot water and then sip that fresh, delicious herbal tea, you’ll never want to go back to tea bags.
Now, if you’re new to the world of herbal tea (or you’re just a little reluctant to step away from your five-a-day double-shot espresso) there’s a lot to breakdown. So we thought we’d put together a guide about everything you need to know about herbal tea, from its history (we are plant nerds, after all) to how to grow, harvest and brew your own delicious herbal beverages.
A Brief History of Herbal Tea
Herbal tea might be a trendy drink at the moment, but that doesn’t mean it’s new.
In fact, herbal infusions — also known as tisanes, if you want to be pedantic — have been a thing for a couple of millenia already.
(Brace yourself, here comes some more serious plant nerdery.)
Records of herbal tea date all the way back to Chinese Pharmacopeia in around 3,000 BC in the records of Emperor Shennong (whose name translates as The Divine Farmer).
According to legend, Shennong was tired and decided to take a rest under a camellia tree. As he boiled some water to drink, some dried leaves fell from the tree above and landed in the pot of boiling water. As they infused with the water, they created an incredible fragrance, and piqued Shennong’s curiosity. He took a sip, found it refreshing and thus, herbal tea was born.
As tea became more popular, it became a cultural and medicinal drink. During the Sui Dynasty (581-618BC), tea was especially used for its medicinal qualities, with people adding, rice, salt, spices, ginger and orange peel to their herbal tea for different medicinal effects.
This herbal tea tradition travelled around the world over the course of the next five hundred years, reaching the shores of Ancient Greece, where pharmacologist Dioscorides wrote the book De materia medica, listing 600 plants known to have different medical benefits when brewed as herbal teas.
Since then, herbs and herbal tea have been used around the world for their rejuvenating and healing powers. (And because they taste incredible.)
Speaking of superpowers…
In our Herbal Tea Kit (or, as we like to call it, Hey there brew-tea-ful) you’ll find stevia, lemon balm, cinnamon basil, lavender and mint plants.
(We’re always experimenting with new plants and trying to make sure they’re happy making the road trip from our HQ in Canada to wherever you are, so keep an eye out for new boxes or one-off experiments!)
So, why not say hello to our Herbal Tea Superhereos: The Fan-tea-stic Five!
(For the full effect, please read this whole section in the classic 1960s-era Batman voiceover, a little bit like this.)
Originally from Central and Southern America and up to 300 times sweeter than white sugar but with zero calories or carbohydrates, Super Stevia has fought against its nemesis, Refined Sugar, for thousands of years.
Marvelous Melissa (also known by her alter ego, Lemon Balm)
A member of the famous Mint family, the Melissa (also known by her superhero name Lemon Balm) has a delicate, citrusy flavour and aroma. Famous for her ability to help with indigestion, nausea and to soothe headaches, she’s also been known to help calm nerves and aid sleep, too.
(Lemon Balm is particularly tasty when she partners up with her Herbal Tea pals, Stevia, lavender, mint, berries, fruits and honey)
A common type of basil with a distinct spicy-sweet aroma that comes from Cinnamate, the same compound that gives cinnamon its flavour. (Think of it as basil that’s been bitten by a cinnamate spider, if you will.)
Super Cinnamon Basil has been known to help fight against kidney problems, constipation, nausea and stomach cramps.
A cousin of Lemon Balm and another member of the Mint family, Lavender is native to the Mediterranean and grown for its extremely fragrant purple flowers. Her super-powers include relieving stress and anxiety, aiding sleep, anti-inflammatory properties, antiseptic abilities and being great for the skin.
(Lavender is the Superman of Herbal Tea — she can do almost everything. Careful not to put a pair of thick-rimmed glasses on her though, otherwise you’ll never recognise her…)
And finally we get to the superest superherbo on the list: mint. Her superpowers include the ability to treat indigestion and upset stomachs, and her record of fighting digestive crimes dates all the way back to Ancient Egypt.
(Plus, it’s super easy to grow and brew. Oh, and incredibly taste. Win, win, win!)
But how do you care for your Herbal Tea Superheroes?
Like every Plantables plant, we’ve made sure that these herbal tea plants are super easy to look after.
All you have to do is move them from the box to either your garden or a 6” (or larger) pot with drainage holes in the bottom and make sure they get a good amount of water for the first week or so.
(How can you tell when your plants need water? Poke your finger into the soil. If it feels dry 2 inches below the surface, give them a little drink.)
After that, just pick, steep and enjoy!
If you’re planting your herbal tea plants in the garden…
These plants are great for growing in the kitchen so you can quickly pick some leaves and brew a delicious herbal tea, but you can plant them outside too.
If you do, here are some tips from Ryan:
Stevia: Will not survive Canadian winter, must be brought inside and grown in a container for the winter.
Lemon Balm: Make sure to plant in full sun to partial shade. These plants are drought tolerant once they’ve established, so they’re super easy to grow, even in poor soil. They’ll grow to up to two feet too, which is great for brewing lots of herbal tea, but they can become invasive in the garden if allowed to go to seed, so make sure you’re always pruning them back.
Cinnamon Basil: These plants are perfect for containers and should be placed in full sun to partial shade and spaced about 12″ apart. As it gets colder, keep an eye on them and bring them inside as they’re very sensitive to frost and cold temperatures. Make sure you remove all of the flowers from the plant too, as these reduce the flavour of the leaves. (Whenever you see a flower or bud, just pinch it off.)
Lavender: Make sure you plant your lavender plants in full sun and well-drained soil. In the fall, you’ll want to prune plant down by around a third or so.
Mint: Mint is incredibly tasty, but it’s also an aggressive and invasive spreader. If you’re planting in the garden, make sure the roots are contained, otherwise you’ll be overrun with more mint than you can brew.
OK, now you’ve planted, pruned and taken care of your herbal tea plants, how do you drink them?
This is where the fun begins.
All you need to do is cut (or pick) a few leaves, steep them in boiling water for 5-10 minutes or so, and you’ll have fresh, delicious and oh-so-healthy herbal tea in no time.
If you’ve got pestle and mortar or muddler, you can crush the leaves before steeping to get even more flavour out of them.
You can experiment with different combinations, different blends, adding fresh leaves to your favourite green or black tea or even mixing in with other ingredients (cucumber, ginger, berries, etc…) to create exciting, vibrant infusions.
Don’t be afraid to experiment, that’s half the fun! (If you come up with an awesome recipe, let us know!)
In the meantime, here are some of our favourite herbal tea recipes (that can all be grown from the Herbal Tea Kit)
Lavender Mint Tea
A classic herbal tea, made the Plantables way.
1/4 Cup Fresh Lavender Flowers
1 Cup Fresh Mint Leaves
4 Cups Water
Place lavender petals and mint leaves into a saucepan, pour water over lavender and mint, and bring to a boil.
Turn heat down to low and simmer your tea until the flavor is at your desired strength. (This usually takes around 15 to 20 minutes.)
Strain out mint and lavender petals and serve tea hot. If you prefer ice tea on a warm day, let strained tea cool for a while and then serve over ice.
Our favourite herbal tea recipe: The Planteables Mint Tea
This is an office favourite! You can serve it hot or cold. It’s delicious either way!
2 cups of water
15 mint leaves
4-5 Stevia leaves
If you like, you can also add:
Then all you need to do is steep the mint and stevia leaves for 3 to 5 minutes in boiling water, depending on how minty you want your mint tea. (That sentence is rather fun to say aloud.)
If you’re an iced tea fan, strain and pour the tea over tall glasses filled with ice.
If you prefer it hot, strain and pour it into mugs.
Then, add a slice or two of lemon (or a good squeeze of lemon juice) to taste, sit back and relax.
Cold Black Tea with Fresh Cinnamon Basil and Orange Slices
4 cups of water
3 cups of cinnamon basil leaves
4 bags of black tea
Thinly sliced orange
Honey to taste
Boil your water and then add the basil leaves and tea bags. Wait for a a few minutes, add honey to taste and allow to cool to the room temperature. Strain, refrigerate and serve with slices of orange.
Ahhhh! This is so refreshing.
Lavender, Mint, Lemon Balm Herbal Tea
1 teaspoon fresh lavender flowers
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon balm leaves
2 cups boiling water
1 tea bag green or black tea (optional)
honey, for serving
Place the loose herbs into the teapot, or into a tea ball. Add boiling water to the pot and steep for 5 minutes before straining. Then pour and enjoy!
(For a stronger flavour add a tea bag alongside the loose herbs.)
That’s it! Everything you need to know about growing, picking and brewing your own delicious, fresh and oh-so-healthy herbal tea. (And, as always, a little bit of plant history thrown in for good measure.)
If you fancy growing and brewing your own herbal tea, why not check out our brand new herbal tea kit?
Until next time, happy planting!