Herbal Tea Making Tips

Photo of Sharol Tilgner

Why Make Herbal Teas

 

Photo of blue, iron tea pot, tea press and herbal tea in jar.

Many of us use them. We love to grow and harvest our own tea and then consume the wonderful, healthy beverages as we sit and enjoy their flavors or think about their health giving benefits. Teas are easy to make, inexpensive and allow people to be more self sufficient and empowered around their healing process.

Tips To Make You An Expert Tea Maker

We covered basic tea making in our "Making Herbal Teas" Article. Here we delve into some of the questions my readers have had regarding tea making. These are common questions and the answers will turn a novice tea maker into an expert tea maker.

What To Do With A Formula That Has A Mix of Herbs Needing Decocting & Infusing

What do you do when you want to prepare a tea of many different herbs and some need to be decocted and some infused? In this situation when the formula is being prepared, put the dried herbs into two containers. One container that holds the herbs to be decocted and another container that holds the herbs to be infused.

When putting your formula together make enough to last you for the time period you expect to be drinking these herbs. If you will be ingesting them long term, make up enough to last as long as you wish. Start by making one container of herbs to decoct and one container to infuse. Put all the hard, dense plant parts such as barks, roots, and some seeds into the container that will be decocted. Then put all the delicate and less dense parts of the plant such as flowers and leaves into another container that will be infused. The herbs to be decocted are made up first. When they are finished decocting take the pot off the burner and add the herbs to be infused into the pot. In both cases make sure the lid to the pot is on tight.  Let it steep for the necessary time and strain it all.

Straining Teas

When you strain your teas, pick up the herb in your strainer and squeeze all the liquid out of the herb material. Some of the best stuff is still in the herbs and you don’t want to throw it into your compost before squeezing it out.

 

Using Ground Herb Vs Cut & Sift Herb

Usually "cut and sift" herb is used for teas. If you grind the herb up into a powder it will extract well but be sure to use cheese cloth or a coffee filter to filter the tea as you pour it into your cup. I also suggest squeezing the powdered herb real well as those small powder particles will want to hold onto a lot of that herbal liquid. You want to squeeze out every drop you can as it is holding the most potent part of your tea. You could designate a special thin tea towel for the task or have cheese cloth just for this use. That will allow you to reuse the material after washing it. Powdered material will cling to more water than the cut and sift herbs and you will get less final amount of liquid tea when you use powdered herb. This is the reason most people use cut and sift rather than powder to make teas.

 

When to Infuse Seeds and Roots (They are usually decocted)

Delicate seeds or roots as well as seeds or roots with volatile oils need to be infused. If you are making a root or seed decoction and it does not work as you expect it should, make sure it does not have volatile oils in it that require you to infuse it rather than decoct it. Examples of where this might be important is with archangelica root, dong quai root and elecampane root.

If infusing hard seeds and roots you  may need to pulverize them a bit with a mortar and pestle to break them up into small enough particles to extract all their goodness from within. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can put them in a bag and roll over them with a rolling pin. If they are too hard to break that way, double bag them and get out a rubber mallet or even a hammer. Put the bag on your cutting board and break them up by banging on them. I often save old bags that are not good for other things for this very purpose. I break up nuts and all sorts of things this way. Even a pot with a real thick bottom can be used to break up seeds or roots. Just be careful not to hurt your cookware.

 

Tight Lids & Volatile Oils

When making a tea by decocting it in a pot, make sure the lid to the pot fits well. When infusing herbs in a container such as a canning jar, make sure the jar lid is on tight enough not to loose vapors into the air. This is especially important when you are making tea from  a plant with a lot of volatile oils. Those oils are important and you don't want to loose them into the air. If you open the jar or pot before it has cooled slightly you will loose all your precious essential oils as they volatilize into the air. So even if the tea has steeped long enough, you may need to wait to open the jar lid until the tea changes from hot to the touch to warm to the touch.

 

How to Make An Herbal Tea Taste Good

What if the tea tastes bad? You have other choices than using it as a tea. However, if you want to use the herb as a tea, try adding other flavors to it that taste good.

 

  • Adding lemon and honey is a solution that makes many teas taste better.
  • Using additional herbs in the mixture that are added only for flavor is another choice.
  • Infusing dried berries such as raspberry, apple, blueberry or even raisins with the herbs while making the tea lends to some wonderful flavors.
  • Essential oils are an additional alternative. You probably have some herbal essential oils in your kitchen that you use in cooking. Look in the pantry. Try anise or peppermint or whatever is there that you think might work for you. It is good to add an essential oil that will have an additive effect to the health benefits of the other herbs in the cup of tea. When adding essential oils, don’t add more than 1-2 drops to a cup or you will be overwhelmed. Put one drop at a time in, stir well and taste. Don’t taste without stirring as the essential oil will still be on the top of the cup and you will get it all in one sip.
  • With kids I have had parents use the fruit infusions mentioned above or mix the tea with a non-sweetened fruit juice. Most kids will take it with dark grape juice if nothing else works as it often hides other flavors.

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