Understanding tea is a life changing process. As a whole, it teaches patience, persistence, discipline, and the beauty of trial and error. We encourage everyone to invest time into understanding the tea and herbs they choose to incorporate into their routine. Below is a series of tea brewing tips to make the process simple and efficient!
Tea vs. Tisane
"Tisane" is the proper term for what is broadly known as tea. Tisanes are medicinally inspired infusions of any plant, from lavender to ginger root, into water. The term "tea" accurately refers to the well known beverage made from the tea tree/bush, Camellia sinensis. It is, however, commonplace in our society to use the word "tea" for both tisanes and tea leaf infusions. For the sake of simplicity in providing information here we will use "herbal tea" to describe tisanes, throughout.
Infusion vs. Decoction
Herbal teas incorporate a diverse range of plant parts; roots, barks, berries, seeds, peels, leaves, flowers, and all aerial parts. Each herb is unique in function and the way they release their medicinal goodies. Most leaves and flowers require a hot infusion to release their nutrients and flavor; this is simply a combination of selected amounts of herb and heated water ranging from 160° to 212° F. The herb and water are combined in a container, covered, and left to steep for varying amounts of time. Hardier plant parts such as roots, berries, and barks require a "decoction". A decoction is an infusion method that uses heated or boiling water to extract the essence from a substance and results in a concentrated liquid. To do this, combine selected amounts of herb and water in a saucepan and cover. We recommend starting with 16 ounces of water as the amount of liquid will reduce throughout the process. Bring the mixture to a light simmer for 10-30 minutes. Allowing the herb enough time to steep at a high temperature is necessary to break down the cell walls of the plant so its medicinal constituents can be released. When the time is up, pour the herbs through a fine mesh strainer, allow the concentration to cool, and enjoy! It is very easy to over or under extract plants, so pay close attention to the herbs you are working with and understand the best ways to prepare them!
Know your Water
The quality of water you infuse your herbs with is just as important as the quality of the herbs themselves. It is important to understand what goes into your water. Tap water is a poor choice as it is stripped of flavor and infused with additives. If you must use bottled water search for something with a neutral pH value of 7. Ultimately, we recommend purchasing a water filtration system that is suitable for your home.
**PLEASE DO NOT microwave your tea water. Microwaves tend to only heat the impurities in the water, causing uneven heating.
Tools for success
There are various possible ways to steep herbs, but all you really need are a few tea making tools and a little patience. In a nutshell, you will need the right amount of herbs and water for a balanced brew, a vessel to hold the concoction while it steeps, a mesh strainer, and of course your favorite mug to house the tea while you sip and enjoy. We recommend using a ceramic or glass teapot whenever possible. Other methods include a 16 ounce mason jar and fine mesh strainer, a reusable cotton tea bag, or a french press. The tools can be as simple or extravagant as you choose and it is important to find a method that suits your tastes.
How Long Will it Take?
Tea Leaves: 30 Seconds-5 Minutes (most can be steeped multiple times)
Peels: 3 Minutes
Flowers: 2-5 Minutes
Herbs (leaf and aerial parts): 5-10 Minutes
Roots, berries, barks, seeds: 10-30 Minutes (often decocted)
How Much Herb to Use
When deciding how much herb to use in an infusion, it is important to keep in mind the mass and volume of each individual herb. Measuring by volume is easy to convey a visual amount, but it adds uncertainty in strength, as density varies greatly between herbs. Leaves and flowers can be fluffy and light, commonly resulting in larger volumes needed per cup. Roots and seeds are compact and heavy so minimal volumes will produce a satisfying cup. A small kitchen scale will provide the most accuracy in measuring your herbs. In addition, each herb has its own unique potency. A teaspoon of lemon balm is just right for a small cup of tea. Peppermint on the other hand is similar in density and comes from the same family, but a teaspoon in a cup of water is far too strong for the average tea drinker to enjoy. It is also important to keep flavor preferences in mind. you will want to experiment as you try new herbs and blends. Finding your own unique balance in strength and flavor is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding parts of herbal tea!
Tips on Storage
You will best preserve the shelf life of your tea leaves and herbs if they are stored in an air-tight container away from heat, light, and moisture. We also recommend avoiding plastics whenever possible as they absorb oils from the herbs. Mason jars or sealed glass containers are always preferred for optimal freshness. Herbs are particularly vulnerable to heat and moisture and unintentional exposure will draw out their flavors and degrade their valuable medicinal constituents.
Freshness Makes a Difference
We recommend brewing each cup/pot of tea fresh, as needed. This will preserve the medicinal qualities of the herbs and make for a more potent and enjoyable cup! Teas are often most effective when consumed warm. If you prefer your tea cold it will last up to 2-3 days in the refrigerator AFTER being brewed. You will be able to tell if the beverage has spoiled because the brew will become noticeably cloudy and bitter and a layer of bubbles may form and settle in a thin foam at the top.
Apart from a few exceptions (such as mullein and marshmallow root, which prefer a longer soak in cold water), it is necessary to steep your tea leaves or herbs in hot to boiling water before serving. However, many teas and herbal blends are delicious when iced! You will get the most benefit and best flavors out of your beverage if you brew it hot, strain out the plant material, allow it time to cool completely, and then refrigerate it. Keep in mind that ice cubes will cool off your infusion faster, but they will also dilute it. Its is best to add ice to an already cooled tea.
Put it into Practice
1. Weigh or measure out desired amount of herbs (usually 1-5 tsp per 8 ounces of water)
2. Pour hot to boiling water over herbs, cover, and allow to steep for proper amount of time (this varies based on the toughness of the herb)
3. Strain and enjoy! (careful, it's hot!)