How to Create Simple Herbal Tea Blends From the Garden
Texas Master Naturalist Sarah Jay loves a good cup of herbal tea any time of day and year. Here, Sarah outlines some awesome recipes for tea from our friend, herbal enthusiast PNW Ana, that you can grow in your own garden.
When it’s cold outside, I love to concoct some tea from the herbs in my garden. There is nothing like sitting back with a steaming cup of tea and warming up indoors while it’s frosty outside. A nice iced tea in hot weather is also something I enjoy, cooling off after a day of hard work in the garden.
All kinds of herbal tea in all seasons are even better when you’ve grown the plants yourself. Stepping into the garden to dig up some ginger, snap a few hyssop leaves, and a fennel leaf here and there to brew into a tea is heartening. I nourished the plants, and now they can nourish me.
Even if you don’t have the ingredients in your garden, creating tea from items you bought from the store is still more satisfying than dropping a tea bag in some hot water. Our ambassador, PNW Ana, has developed six amazing tea recipes you can try at home. Let’s get into some herbal tea!
Before we start, note that we are not medical professionals; these teas are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult with a healthcare professional before drinking them if you have any concerns, and use them at your own risk.
Seeds Featured In This Article
Lemon Balm Seeds
German Chamomile Seeds
Munstead Lavender Seeds
Finocchio Fennel Seeds
English Thyme Seeds
How Can Herbal Teas Enrich Your Life?
While there are intangible benefits to having a cup of home-crafted, home-brewed herbal tea, there are also plenty of practical advantages. You can build a sense of reciprocity between you and your garden and allow yourself to slow down, observe, or simply enjoy.
Learning More About Plants
While you’re sipping the tea you’ve made, you get a better sense of each plant included in the brew and learn more about how the plants work together. You gain insight into where they come from and how they get from a growing space to your cup.
Observe how each herb affects your body and your state of mind. Examine your preferences for certain herbs and determine which are best suited to your constitution. This helps you build your own recipes in the future.
If you grow the herbs you’re brewing, you glean a deeper understanding of the plant’s life cycle, including cutting times, feeding, and watering – the entire care process from seed to harvest. This helps you be a better gardener and gets you more in touch with natural cycles and patterns.
Better Health and Relaxation
It is so relaxing to make time for herbal tea in a daily, weekly, or even monthly routine. As you gather your ingredients, you turn your focus to developing a blend. The process of actually brewing the tea is simple, but sitting in a chair with your tea and a book is so satisfying.
Recent studies have shown that certain herbal teas have plenty of health benefits besides the more relaxing and meditative aspects. From better immune functioning to better sleep to healthier digestion, you open yourself to health benefits from specific herbs in your teas.
How to Brew Your Teas
Start with dried herbs and use filtered water heated to 195°F (90°C). Steep your herbs in a tea bag, steeper, or teapot with a fine mesh insert for at least 5 minutes. Ana mentions there is room to experiment here. Steep longer for a stronger tea and shorter for less infusion.
Add lemon, dried fruits, honey, stevia, and agave to give your tea more flavor or sweetness as you see fit. If you’re unsure where to acquire some of the herbs in these recipes, Ana has you covered! She lists suppliers who stock high-quality herbs on her social media.
One last note: if you are harvesting your own herbs, remember to take no more than ⅓ of the plant at a time. Always use sterilized cutting shears, and most importantly, have fun!
6 Herbal Tea Blends From the Garden
Now you know about some of the advantages of making your own herbal teas. Let’s discuss the recipes that PNW Ana put together. We’ll start with the contents of each tea and discuss the different plants. Many of these are easy-to-grow herbs you can cultivate at home.
Sleepy Time Tea
- Three parts lemon balm
- Two parts chamomile
- One part lavender
I find this blend of tea perfect for the evening. The synergistic effect from the combination of calming lemon balm, chamomile, and lavender is so relaxing, though I find sometimes a stronger brew can be stimulating instead. Try yours at different strengths to see what works for you.
Plants like lemon balm and chamomile are easy to grow beginning in spring in containers or even planted in a garden bed. Lemon balm is perennial in zones 3 through 7, meaning you can continuously produce this all-around awesome herb several years in a row.
Growing a little patch of chamomile is fun! While chamomile is an annual flower that blooms through summer, it reseeds and resprouts in spring. It’s exciting to go out to the chamomile patch or container and pop off a few chamomile heads for tea. They smell incredible, too.
Lavender seeds require a short cold period and are slow to germinate, but you will not be sad you grew them. I prefer Munstead lavender as it’s more compact than other varieties and more adaptable to heat and cold. Lavender is another perennial that’s easy to grow once it’s established.
Dry Your Herbs
While you can brew all of these fresh, consider taking the time to dry them for a stronger-flavored tea. For lemon balm, harvest just as you would basil and snap off some leaves at a growth point. Gather lavender flowers from spring or fall blooms, and pop chamomile heads off the plant as they appear in summer.
Lemon balm needs a couple of days to dry. Chamomile needs two weeks, and lavender needs one week. Remember to wash your harvests and turn them as they air dry, or use a dehydrator for better control over the drying conditions.
Get Your Focus
- Three parts butterfly pea flower
- Two parts green tea
- One part lemon verbena
The coolest part of this focus tea is its awesome blue-violet color. This comes from the butterfly pea flowers, rich in anthocyanin and, more specifically, the compound delphinidin. This turns the water violet. Adding some citrus to your butterfly pea elixir will make it a bright purplish-pink color, too! This color-changing effect is very dramatic and happens instantaneously due to the acid in the lemon.
Green tea is a great addition to any tea you want to drink to perk up slightly. It’s a young form of the plant Camellia sinensis, picked before the leaves go through the oxidation processes that make oolong and black teas. All “true” tea leaves come from this plant! Any tea that does not contain tea leaves is technically referred to as a “tisane,” but we usually call them herbal teas.
You can grow green tea at home, but note that tea plants are accustomed to tropical climates and will need climate controls to survive colder regions. Aloysia citrodora is the botanical name for lemon verbena. This plant is very easy to grow and common in nurseries.
Lemon verbena balances the green tea and butterfly pea, smoothing out any potential overstimulation. The taste of this tea is tart (from the butterfly pea), slightly bitter (from the green tea), and bright and herby (from the lemon verbena).
Another benefit to all of the ingredients here is that they are readily available as dried herbs if you don’t have the time or don’t want to wait to brew this tea. However, you can harvest and dry them on your own, similar to the herbs in the last section.
Calm Down Tea
- Three parts catmint
- Two parts chamomile
- One part lavender
Catmint is not just for cats! In fact, catmint and catnip are both great for providing a bit of calm to your cup. Catmint is a perennial herb that grows into a lush, silvery green bush over time and produces a profusion of purple spikes in spring and summer.
Mine has bloomed through the fall, and yours should, too, if you live in a place with temperate autumns. You can use both leaves and flowers of catmint to make this tea. Harvest as you would lemon balm, taking a sprig above a leaf node. Avoid woody stems where possible.
Add lavender and chamomile, and you have a delicate floral flavor that is edged with a slight minty sweetness from the catmint. Brew this one in the middle of the day to calm down from the hustle and bustle of the morning, or save it for your evening relaxation.
- Three parts peppermint
- Two parts chamomile
- One part fennel seeds
This tea is the perfect pairing for your post-meal dessert. It’s minty and floral, with a hint of anise, giving you a calmer stomach and fresh breath. Peppermint has specific proven benefits that make this tea highly effective for digestive issues.
The National Institutes of Health reviewed research on peppermint and determined that the herb eases gastric distress, inflammation, and many other conditions. Growing your own peppermint is easy, and you can find seeds or starts at nurseries all over.
Growing your own fennel is easy, too! I prefer to grow a less bulbous variety, like Finocchio Fennel, because the leaf and seed development is more robust. Any kind of fennel works, though. Let yours flower, and then collect the seed heads that form in fall.
Both of these plants are invasive in various areas of North America. If you don’t have a fennel native to your area, opt for a container to help keep it in check. Anyone who has planted peppermint knows it just won’t quit. I’d keep that one in a raised bed or container to avoid unwanted spread.
I often head to the garden just to snap off a fennel leaf to freshen my breath after a meal. Spice blends with fennel are common in Indian restaurants, too, as people put spoonfuls in their mouths for fresher breath. It’s such a tasty herb. It’s easy to see why people love to do this.
- Three parts thyme
- Two parts rosemary
- One part lemon balm
This tea is spicy, herby, citrusy, and a little sweet too! With the old standby lemon balm, the blend gets a good lift. Thyme brings in earthiness and spice. Rosemary offers a mild sweetness and mintiness that is also uplifting.
Rosemary is one of the most rewarding herbs to grow. If I had room to grow bushes of it all over my garden, I would! While it’s slow to germinate, it really takes off when it’s established. You don’t have to relegate your entire harvest to teas, either. It’s great for cooking as well.
English thyme is a great choice for this tea, and it makes a lovely low hedge or container plant in your garden. However, any thyme works. If you have creeping thyme, variegated thyme, or even lemon thyme, they’ll all work the same way. Thyme is also perfect in chicken dishes, so save some for that.
These herbs together have a brightening effect.
- Three parts rose petals
- Two parts hibiscus
- One part chamomile
While there are plenty of ways to enhance your skin topically, you can drink this tea for glowing skin as well. This is a wholly floral tea with three different flowers that combine and deliver a tart and fragrant flavor.
Damask roses tend to have more of the compounds that are touted as skin enhancers. Centifolia (cabbage roses), Rosa gallica, and musk roses are also suitable. Other roses may not have the concentration of oils and fragrances that you need. Opt for purchasing dried rose petals when necessary.
Hibiscus should be taken from one species and one species only: H. sabdariffa, known commonly as roselle. This species has smaller flowers than the Hawaiian varieties people typically think of. But the huge calyces are what make this the one to use. That’s where the flavor and red color comes from.
You can grow roselle as an annual outside of tropical areas. It will grow as a perennial in zones 10 and above. You can grow roses almost anywhere, as long as you have one suited to your climate. Chamomile is such a great plant for the herb garden, too, as we’ve mentioned.
If you were wondering where to start with herbal teas, this list gives you a great foundation. Then, you can experiment with your own flavors and synergies. Whether you decide to experiment or not, what’s certain is you will look forward to that moment with your cup of tea. Have it indoors or in the garden if you choose!