How To Brew Herbal Teas
Herbal tea is can be a refreshing drink on a hot summer day or a restful cup of comfort in the evening. There are multiple ways of brewing herbs into different styles of tea, depending on the part of the herb used and the reason for brewing. No matter the type of tea you are brewing, some rules remain the same: Use fresh herbs and a non-reactive container that can be covered to prevent volatile oils from escaping with the steam. I always recommend using glass as my brewing container. There are non-reactive metals that can be substituted, but glass allows me to view the mixture, cleans well without residual odor, and can be recycled when chipped or broken.
An infusion is a tea that has been made from the aerial parts of an herb. The leaves, petals or whole blossoms and sometimes stems are placed in a container and boiled water is poured over. A cover is placed on the mixture and left for a period of time. I prefer to leave my herbs in the boiled water until the water cools to room temperature and dilute the resulting infusion if necessary, while others time their infusions and steep for a specific period. This is up to you.
A decoction is made from tougher herb parts; the roots and seeds of the herb. To make a decoction, it is helpful to crush or bruise the roots or seeds in a mortar and pestle before placing into a pan to be simmered for a period of time. This simmering is necessary to extract the medicinal properties. Recipes vary, but it can take up to 20 minutes or longer to simmer roots and or seeds properly. Again, this is subject to an herbalist's personal opinion.
There are less official sounding, but still important types of teas to brew:
Iced teas are a common beverage to those in the know. Iced teas can add plenty of flavor to water, yet remain caffeine free and even naturally sweet tasting with the addition of the right herbs. Make your iced tea by brewing the perfect cup of tea and pour it over ice, or try one of these ways.
To make a concentrate, use copious amounts of dried herb and pour boiled water over all. Cover tightly and allow to cool to room temperature. Strain this and add to your ice filled glass about 1/2 full. Continue to fill with cold water (or to taste), and enjoy!
Sun tea is not only a delicious method of brewing; it imparts a rich-never bitter flavor to the finished tea. To make sun tea, simply add fresh herb leaves to a jar with clean water, cover and place in the sun for 4-6 hours. Strain and enjoy. This is a fun way to prepare for a summer party, making a quart jar for each guest. Add a fun label and add ice when they arrive!
When making sun tea, it is best to only steep for the recommended period of time to keep the fresh herbs from starting to decay in the jar. Place any strained, unused sun tea in the fridge to be consumed over the next day or two. It never lasts that long on our farm. If you enjoy a stronger tea, increase the amount of herbs added, never the brewing time, to avoid any issues.
Some recipes for the above mentioned types of brewed tea:
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