Monday, October 17, 2011

Iced Teas & Herbal Tisanes

Technically, if it's herbal it's not called tea, it's called tisane.  But nobody really uses that word so I just call it herbal iced tea even if I'm just steep herbs and no actual tea is involved.  Whatever you call it, herbs are grown locally and tea isn't so I often steep herbs, on their own or with fruit and sometimes tea, to make lovely, refreshing drinks.

Here's some general guidelines:

  • I use water just below a boil to steep tea/herbs/fruit
  • I use about 2-3 bunches of fresh herbs or 1-2 ounces of dried herbs/tea per gallon of water.
  • I steep herbs or fruit generally for about 20 minutes, tasting along the way for strength.
  • I steep tea any where from 3-12 minutes, depending on the tea.  I like strong tea but I want to pull the leaves out before it gets bitter. If I'm using the same tea leaves multiple times the 1st steep is shorter and I'll add a couple minutes to each progressive steep (e.g. 3 minutes the 1st steep, 5 minutes the 2nd steep)
  • I only use the highest quality tea and herbs I can find.  Tea can get super expensive but a little goes a long way.

I recently made a lavender-mint-lemon verbena tisane for an event at Suzie's Farm (using all ingredients grown at Suzie's, of course), which was also very popular when I made it for the farmers markets. Steep the leaves only on the verbena, strip them from the stems.  I think the stems are bitter.  But the lavender flower and leaves give good flavor, and most other fresh herbs you can steep the whole bunch. Here's a few more I love:

  • fresh chocolate mint
  • white peony tea & dried orange peel
  • oolong & lemongrass
  • black tea with dried orange peel, fresh ginger & honey
  • dried hibiscus flower (think jamaica), plain or with citrus
  • virgin "sangria": hibiscus, rosehips, raspberry leaf with fresh fruit & agave.

Pour over ice and add sweetener as desired.  I also love to cut lemonade with iced tea/tisane.

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