Tequia's Tea Garden
Here are a few tea herbs that I love:
There are so many kinds of mint—this year, I’m growing peppermint, catnip, banana mint, and pineapple mint. Rich in nutrients, mint is both delicious and medicinal, known for easing both digestion and indigestion. Mint can also relieve a runny nose by clearing congestion. A perennial herb that thrives in both sun and shade, mint is a vigorous grower and should always be grown in its own pot—plant it in a raised bed or in the ground at your peril. If you do so, it will take over your yard, and you’ll be digging it out for years to come. However, if it does take over, it may help repel critters from your yard!
To make drying herbs a cinch, I use an herb drying rack. You can also dry mint by tying it into a bundle with string and hanging it upside down.
Honey Lemon Mint Tea
This tea recipe can be served iced or hot—perfect for both cooling down on sunny days and curling up under a blanket on cold, wintry ones.
- 3 cups of water
- Handful of dried or fresh mint leaves
- Half a lemon
- Honey, to taste
- Boil water and then steep the mint leaves, covered, for 10 minutes.
- Add a couple of cut slices of lemon. Then squeeze the remaining lemon juice into the brew.
- Add honey to taste.
I love plants that do double duty, and lemongrass fits the bill. Not only can you brew a delicious cup of tea from lemongrass, but it also serves as a natural mosquito repellent. Lemongrass doesn’t quite taste like lemons when brewed—it’s less tangy and acidic—but it does provide a nice grassy, mild lemon profile. Packed with antioxidants, it is good for heart health and blood pressure, boosts immunity, and may even help lower anxiety. Very easy to grow, all lemongrass requires is a nice sunny spot, consistent watering, and well-draining soil to do its thing. Since it’s a tropical plant, consider this as an annual in Chicago; it will die off once the cold fall air sweeps in.
To dry lemongrass, bundle them into circles and space them apart on a flat surface.
Lemongrass Ginger Tea
This recipe is the one I make most frequently. Some people like it sweetened, but I enjoy it without honey or sugar.
- Three cups of water
- One bundle of dried or fresh lemongrass
- 1-inch piece of ginger
- Half a lemon
- In a pot, boil water, ginger, and lemongrass for 10 minutes.
- Turn off the heat then add juice from half a lemon and then cover and steep for 10 to 20 minutes.
Celestial Seasonings “Red Zinger” is one of my favorite teas—any hibiscus tea, as a matter of fact, is my jam. So, I was excited when I discovered I could make my own brew by growing roselle, which is native to West Africa; the herb is also known as sorrel, Florida Cranberry, and Flor de Jamaica. In the Caribbean, it is best known as the main ingredient in the holiday drink Sorrel. Although a perennial in tropical climates (hardy in USDA Zones 8 to 11), it’s best grown as an annual in colder climates like Chicago.
Roselle produces big, beautiful blooms in the summertime, and, after the flowers fade, you can harvest the calyxes for jellies, Red Zinger, and iced teas like Agua de Jamaica.
Agua de Jamaica Iced Tea
You are very likely to find this popular iced tea on the menu at your local taqueria, right next to the horchata.
- 8 cups water, divided
- ½ to ¾ cup sugar, to taste
- 1 cinnamon stick
- A few thin slices of ginger
- 1 cup dried roselle calyxes
- Juice from 1 to 2 limes
- In a pot, add 4 cups of the water, the sugar, cinnamon stick, and ginger slices; boil until the sugar has dissolved.
- Remove from heat and stir in the dried roselle calyxes. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes.
- Strain into a pitcher and discard the used herbs. Now you have a concentrate that you can store in the fridge for a week and is ready to mix into ice water.
- To make the iced tea: Add the remaining 4 cups of water with ice to the concentrate along with lime juice and chill.
An herb that originates from the daisy-like flowers of the Asteraceae plant family, chamomile has traditionally been used to treat such conditions as anxiety and depression. When I need a stress reliever or have trouble sleeping, I brew up a cup of chamomile tea, which is made from dried flowers and then infused into hot water. This plant is a hardy self-sower, like mint. Be careful where you plant German chamomile; I still have it popping up all over my garden years after planting. (In some areas, it’s considered a weed.) A drought-tolerant plant, chamomile grows well in either full sun or partial shade.
Legend has it that tea was discovered in China when Emperor Shen Nung accidentally came across the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) almost 5,000 years ago. After that first delicious cup was brewed, tea spread across the world and has been enjoyed by people of all different cultures.
Chamomile Tea Latte
I prefer using coconut milk, but this refreshing hot or cold latte can be made with any other dairy or non-dairy milk.
- 1½ cups water
- ¼ cup dried chamomile flowers
- 1½ cups cold coconut milk
- ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon honey, maple syrup, or sugar
- Boil the water in a pot, remove from heat, and add chamomile. Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, gently heat the milk with the cinnamon and vanilla in another pot until simmering. Whip for 5 minutes to froth the milk.
- Strain chamomile flowers and then add tea to milk. Stir in honey, maple syrup or sugar, to taste.