If you've been adding sprigs of fresh herbs to your black or green teas, you can take the next step and make a fully herbal tea that may surprise you with its subtle delightfulness. Whether you garden or just cook a lot, the ingredients you need are likely close to hand.
- A French press works well for herbal tea. If you've been using it for coffee, give it about five rinses, each with a bit of vinegar, to get rid of the inherent smoky element of the coffee. Clean both the carafe and the plunger unit, equally likely to have odors. A grater or citrus zester also comes in handy.
- Alternatively, set a tea basket infuser in a mug or teapot, or use a glass teapot, especially attractive for herbal teas.
Avoid using a teaball infuser, which restricts the ability of water to circulate among the herbs, limiting the release of their flavors.
Zest about 2 square inches of the surface of a lemon or lime, or grapefruit or orange, and place it in the base of the carafe or in the tea basket. Add to the carafe or basket:
- a clove
- a peppercorn
- and 3 cardamon pods, bumped with the flat end of a knife handle to crumple the outer pod.
If you have a wedge of drying-out lemon or lime going to waste, you can use this instead of zest. Drying-out herbs similarly work well, as their flavor intensifies.
Place a kettle on the stove and begin heating enough water to make an 8-ounce cup of tea.
Gather your herbs. If you have a garden, you can, for example, gather cuttings of lemon balm leaves, an amount about the size of a ping-pong ball, and an equal amount of lemon thyme's small leafy branches. Other options include basil, chives, dill, marjoram, oregano, parsley, members of the mint family -- especially peppermint, which can make delicious iced tea -- rosemary, sage or verbena.
For herbal teas, heat the water until just below the boiling point, around 212 degrees Fahrenheit, which you can tell by removing the kettle just before it whistles or by pouring some water in a cup and using a digital instant-read thermometer. Pour a cupful of water on top of the herbs and spices.
French Press method: Place the plunger unit on top of the carafe. Let the mixture steep for 5 minutes and depress the plunger, then pour yourself a cup of herbal tea.
Tea basket and teapot or mug, or glass teapot method: Warm the teapot or mug and pour out the water. Insert the basket infuser and pour the hot water in from a height of about 6 inches, so it burbles. Allow it to steep about 5 minutes. You can reinfuse the herbs multiple times.
Avoid picking wild herbs, which may have been treated with pesticides, for herbal brewing.