We are a nation whose foundations are built on tea, from the pioneers of the empire to the average builder having his hourly cuppa. But not all teas involve a glug of milk, a dollop of sugar or a wedge of lemon. There is more, so much more to tea than Earl Grey and PG Tips. In my youth I always associated herbal teas with the orient and crusty hippies, and rightly so…but I have to give them credit where credit’s due. As the years have been taking their toll (26?) I have found a great deal of comfort in my herbal teas, however arty farty and carrot crunching that may sound…they are great.
I have always been partial to peppermint tea, refreshing and I know it’s doing the insides some good. When it comes to the wild larder, there is all the bagged up bliss you can buy in the hippy shops and more. For this little entry to the Blog of destiny I will be concentrating on three of the best; Meadowsweet, Apple mint and Lemon balm.
The history of herbal teas lies mainly in medicinal use and a large variety of herbs are used as diuretics, treating stress, headaches, fevers and insomnia. Also known as ‘Tisanes’, herbal teas have become synonymous with dinner parties and posh restaurants. The word Tisane originates from a Greek word ‘ptisane’ which refers to an infusion made from pearl barley.
The preferred method of making a herbal infusion involves steeping fresh or dried herbs in boiling water in a teapot (ideally not one used for tea as this will affect the flavour) for 10 to 15 minutes and then dispatching into your ideal receptacle (cup, mug, flagon, bowl) and enjoying a bit of soothing for your particular ailment. The other method is to use a proper Tisane cup which has a small insert with holes in it rather like a sieve (see below).
The other day when I was out and about in Sussex enjoying a particularly fine day of fly-fishing for chub on the Ardingly Ouse, I happened upon a large bed of Meadowsweet. The leaves of the plant don’t look all that different from the wild strawberry plant and has a very obvious reddish stem. After a couple of minutes of gathering I had a good bunch to last me more than a few dinner parties involving heavy consumption. This is the breakdown of the three heavyweight herbs and why you might want to drink them:
· Meadowsweet- used as a remedy for acid stomach and heartburn as well as aiding indigestion. Other names include ‘Meadsweet’ which refers to its use in flavouring of Mead, the honey-based alcoholic beverage of the middle ages, ‘Queen of the meadow’ is another historical name relating to Queen Elizabeth 1st love for the herb, she would have it scattered around her chambers everyday for its sweet aroma. It also contains traces of a major ingredient used in Aspirin.
· Apple Mint- Often found around still waters and marsh areas, great in Pimm’s and even better with Lamb, used mainly for digestive disorders in herbal infusions. Most mint will do the same thing!
· Lemon balm- also a member of the mint family, lemon balm is an essential ingredient of citronella, hence crushing up the leaves and rubbing them on your skin will keep mozzies away. From a culinary perspective: great addition to fish sauces. The main uses medicinally are to aid headaches, insomnia and depression. The leaves have an incredibly fresh smell of lemon-childhood favourite!
These three super herbs are almost guaranteed to sort you out for most ailments, I don’t think a cup or two of these a day will do you any harm. When working out dosages, it is roughly a teaspoon of dried or a tablespoon of fresh. To make sure you have enough to take you through the winter start collecting and drying now and get yourself a nice, fat pot of these wonder herbs. I assume that a combination of all three would be a good hangover cure, its about time the human race had one! It certainly makes you wonder what else people did before the chemicals came around…leeches?