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The art of herbal tea

June 12, 2018 Vickie Sorensen

I know what you're thinking. 

A blog post on making tea? Can't I just toss a tea bag into a mug of hot water? 
Tea is a foundational form of herbal medicine, and knowing how to do this essential skill correctly can greatly improve the nutrient bioavailability and efficacy of your herbs. But don't worry- we're here to teach you how to master this style of remedy, so let's get started!

These are the essentials to a perfect cup of herbal tea:

  • Hot Water
  • Type of herb used
  • Amount of herb used
  • Covering your teacup
  • Timing is everything
  • Decoctions are different
  • Infusing a decoction
  • Straining your tea
  • Sweeten to taste

Hot Water
The quality of your tea will be affected by the quality of water you use. Use filtered water whenever possible. Bring your water to a boil in a tea kettle, electric tea kettle, or even a simple kitchen saucepan. You don't want to microwave your tea water for a number of reasons, one of them being the possibility of overheating and burning yourself. 

Type of herb used
It's important to know which part of the herb is used for medicinal purposes to determine how to steep it. Soft plant materials such as flowers, leaves, fruit, and soft stems need to be steeped in just-off-the boil water to preserve the delicate vitamins and essential oils contained inside. This is known as an infusion. Harder plant materials like roots, seeds, and bark need to be left on the heat and simmered for a length of time to pull the medicinal properties out of the plant materials. This is known as a decoction. 

Amount of herb used
The amount of herb used depends on which type of plant matter you're using. Here's a general guideline: 
Bagged tea: 1 teabag or pouch per 8-16 oz of hot water
Dried looseleaf (infusion or decoction) herbs: 1 tbsp herbs per 8-12 oz water
Fresh herbs: 2-3 Tbsp per 8-12 oz water

Covering your teacup
It is important to cover your tea cup with a small plate so that the steam doesn’t escape. Covering your teacup prevents the essential oils that are contained in the herbs from evaporating out of your herbal tea with the steam. These essential oils contain healing properties, but also contribute to the flavor of your tea! 

Timing is everything
Steeping your tea for the proper amount of time is important! If you steep your tea for too long, it can develop a bitter flavor. If you don't steep it long enough, you may not be getting the most out of your herbs. As a general rule, tea infusions  should be steeped for 5-7 minutes.

Decoctions are different
When using roots, bark or seeds to make your tea, you need to start with cold water. 
Add your herbs and cold water to a pot, then bring to a boil. Put a lid on the pan and boil for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let your decoction cool to drinking temperature, then strain.

Infusing a decoction
You can combine a decoction with herbs that are best as infusions. Simply decoct your hard herbs in a pot of water as directed, then add the remaining herbs to the pot when you remove it from the heat to cool (make sure you keep your pot covered!). Let all the herbs infuse together for the recommended 5-7 minutes.

Straining your tea
You can purchase looseleaf tea infusers in nearly every shape and size, or you can simply strain your tea using a fine mesh strainer or even a coffee filter! 

Sweeten to taste
You don't want to negate the positive effects of your tea by dumping a bunch of sugar or artificial sweeteners into it. Stick to natural sweeteners such as honey, agave nectar, stevia, or monkfruit. Some teas may not need much sweetener, so sample as you sweeten so that you get the flavor just right! 

Enjoy the taste and medicinal benefits of your beverage now that you are a master in the art of herbal tea!



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