Herbal tea is perhaps the most common way herbs are consumed in the United States. Most likely you've got at least a few types of herbal tea in your kitchen cupboard right now. Herbs for tea are most commonly brewed by herbalists as an Infusion or Decotion, both of which we've look at in previous blog posts. There are some herbalists that put herbal tea as a separate type of herbal preparation and others who won't. Today we are going to take a look at herbal tea and explore how to brew the perfect cup.
How is herbal tea different from an infusion or decotion?
There are many types of herbal teas that are brewed similarly to an infusion. The main difference between an infusion and brewing tea is the length of a brew. Herbal teas are generally only brewed for a few short minutes whereas an infusion steeps for hours. The medicinal benefits of an herbal tea will be much less than that of an infusion or decotion. In some herbs the primary herb actions aren't even activated during short brewing times.
Another difference is that herbal tea is often made from teabags. There are loose leaf herbal teas out there but most herbal teas come from a bag. Herbalists and tea enthusiasts prefer to use loose-leaf herbs for a variety of reasons which we discussed in the infusion post. Those who enjoy the convienence of tea bags but want to use loose herbs can get reusable cloth bags. These can be filled on Sunday afternoon to have enough baggies to last all week, washed, and reused. Make sure to compost your spent herbs whenever possible (and the cloth bags can be composted as well.) Herbal tea can also be brewed in a french press, tea infuser, or tea strainer.
How to make an herbal tea
There are many different methods for preparing a cup of herbal tea. Some herbs may need different brew lengths or water temperature so many sure to look into that before brewing.
The instructions below are for a traditional herbal tea brew from bagged tea.
First, boil your water.
Note- You can boil in a kettle, pot, electric skillet, etc. Usually 1-2 cups of water to one teabag is used.
Next, place tea bag into mug or teapot
Then, Pour water over tea and cover the mug or teapot.
Note- Covering is an important step a lot of people skip over. Most herbs contain volatile oils that will escape during the steeping process. Make sure to cover for the best possible brew.
Last, Steep 5-10 minutes (depending on the herbs), strain, sweeten, and enjoy.
Note- Local raw honey is a popular addition to sweeten tea.
Tea can then be cooled and drank iced, frozen into ice cube trays, or enjoyed hot!
Brewing loose-leaf herbal tea will follow a similar process making sure to strain properly before enjoying.