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Did you know that after water, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world?! We drink a lot of tea!
Here is how to get the most health benefit (and enjoyment!) out of a cup of herbal tea.
Here you’ll find:
Real Talk: Tea vs. Tisane
Hot Infusions vs. Cold Infusions
Herbalist Tricks & Tips
Skip the chit-chat! Get brewing!
Real Talk: Tea vs. Tisane
First, I have to break some news to you, just so that we start out on the right foot. Let’s get technical for just a minute. What we call herbal teas are actually more accurately called tisanes. True teas come from one plant and one plant only, Camellia sinensis, the tea plant.
From Camellia sinensis, we are blessed with many different types of tea that we refer to as white, yellow, green, dark (which includes puh-er), oolong, and black. These different types of true tea differ based solely on how the tea leaves are processed.
Tisanes, rhyming with shabam, are everything else. And everything else is what we call herbal teas.
You may hear both terms, tea and tisane, thrown around and if you’ve always wondered what the difference was, you can rest assured that they mean the exact same thing. Herbal tea and tisane are fully interchangeable.
Getting the Most out of Your Herbal Tea
Different Types of Plant Matter Require Different Brewing Methods
Herbal teas are made out of all kinds of different plant materials (or “parts”). All herbal teas are typically made from one type or a combination of plant parts which may include plant roots, bark, fruits, seeds, flowers, and/or leaves.
This is the one of the major keys to making the perfect cup of herbal tea, knowing what kind of plant materials your tea is made out of.
Here are some examples of the different kinds of herbs commonly used in herbal tea blends:
Roots, Bark, & Hearty Citrus Peels
Fruits & Seeds
Making herbal tea is an art.
And as with any art, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to making herbal teas. Most will come to develop their own methods and personal quirks around their version of the perfect cup of tea.
However, there are general and incredibly helpful “rules” that will help you get the most out of your herbal tea. One of the most important things to be mindful of is the type of plant materials your herbal tea is made of.
Different plant materials (ie. roots, bark, leaves, fruits, seeds, and flowers) require different brewing methods to really get the most therapeutic benefit out of your herbal tea.
Denser (ie. heartier and tougher) plant material like roots and bark typically require more extreme conditions to extract more of the therapeutic phytochemicals (the compounds that give plants their therapeutic benefits). This may mean higher temperatures, longer steeping times, and oftentimes even simmering the tea.
On the other hand, softer plant materials like leaves and flowers, typically require less extreme conditions. These softer materials are typically steeped using water just under a boil and typically for no longer than 10 minutes or so.
The different herbal tea brewing methods are generally referred to as:
- Hot infusions
- Cold infusions
How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Herbal Tea
It’s actually incredibly simple to brew the most perfect cup of herbal tea!
Step 1: Grab your favorite mug.
Step2: Choose your tea.
Step 3: Choose your infusion method:
Hot Infusion (most common), Cold Infusion, or Decoction
Hot & Cold Infusions: Herbal Tea 101
There are typically two ways in which we make herbal tea, by way of either a hot infusion or a cold infusion. Here are the differences (aside from the obvious):
Hot infusions are herbal tea made with hot water. This is the more typical way of making herbal teas in which you pour hot water over your tea and allow it to steep, typically anywhere from 6-15 minutes.
As you probably guessed, a cold herbal infusion is made with cold or room temperature waters. Cold infusions are typically made in larger batches (as opposed to a single cup of tea) because they take longer. In general, you’ll let your cold infusions sit for 6-8 hours or overnight.
How much tea do I use?
How much of your loose leaf herbal tea that you use per serving is really a matter of preference. A standard amount is ~2-3 teaspoons of tea per 8-10 fl. oz of hot water. For a more therapeutic effect, you’ll want a stronger tea. Three teaspoons per 8 ounces of hot water is the standard recommendation.
Decoctions: Herbal Tea 101
While it’s not a word you hear everyday, a decoction is nothing than an active hot infusion in which the herbs are gently simmered or boiled.
When to Use: Use a decoction with harder, denser plant material like roots, bark, seeds, and dried fruits.
Time to Infuse: Typically 20-60 minutes depending on your herbs of choice and how strong you’d like the extraction to be.
How to Make an Herbal Decoction:
- Add 3-4 tablespoons to a quart-sized pot, then fill with water.
- Over medium heat, slowly bring the mixture to a simmer.
- Cover and continue to gently simmer for 20-60 minutes. (Turn the heat down to low to enure that the decoction doesn’t boil over.)
- Then remove from heat and allow to cool until it’s easier to handle (about 1 hour).
- Use a fine mesh strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth and a funnel to strain the liquid into a clean quart-sized glass jar. Some of the liquid will have evaporated and you can replace with more hot water if desired.
- Enjoy while warm or cool to room temperature, then place a lid on the jar and store in the refrigerator.
- Use within 5-7 days.
How To Make an Herbal Infusion or Decoction
You don’t need all of this equipment. Depending on the type of infusion, personal preference and lifestyle
- Small Saucepan or Tea Kettle (This is my all-time favorite electric tea kettle that allows you to set the water temperature.)
- Tea Infusers (for loose leaf teas, look for infusers that allow space for the herbs to expand as they soak up water)
- French Press (another easy option for loose leaf teas)
- Reuseable Tea Bags
- Unbleached Disposable Tea Filter Bags
- Water (hot or cold depending on the type of infusion)
- Your Choice of Herbs (always opt for organic, fair-trade, and/or ethically-harvested when possible)
Per 1 cup (8 fl. oz.) serving:
- Boil 1 cup of water.
- While water is boiling, add 2-3 teaspoons of your loose-leaf herbal tea blend to a heat-safe, non-plastic container of your choice (a canning jar, French press, or glass measuring cup). Or add ~2-3 teaspoons of herb to a reuseable or unbleached disposable tea bag (or a tea infuser) and hang in your favorite mug.
- Pour hot water over herbs and cover. (The French press comes with its own cover, otherwise, just use a small plate.)
- Let steep for the desired amount of time. The longer the infusion, the stronger the tea will be.
- Then either pour the tea through a strainer or just remove the bag or infuser. Squeeze as much tea from the herbs as you can. Sweeten with honey or another sweetener of your choice if you desire. Then, enjoy!
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