Whether served piping hot or icy cold, herbal teas make a refreshing caffeine-free beverage all ages can enjoy. But if chamomile makes you yawn and mint seems mindless, these easy-to-grow plants will have you rethinking ho-hum herbal infusions.
Mitchell Hewson, horticultural therapist at the Homewood Health Centre in Guelph, Ont., shares his tips for maximizing flavour and minimizing the work. His top three picks for homegrown herbal tisanes are lemon verbena, chocolate mint and sweet woodruff. Inquire at your local nursery and if you can’t source a plant, purchase seeds from a seed company to grow your own. Sweet woodruff likely won’t be found among the herbs as it’s usually sold as a ground cover.
Lemon verbena: Love lemon but want to drink local? Lemon verbena provides the strongest lemon scent and flavour outside the citrus family. You won’t believe this light, bright tea doesn’t contain a slice of lemon.
Mix it up: Add some lemon verbena to your favourite green tea.
Chocolate mint: This mint cultivar (Chocolate' Mentha x piperita f. citrata) has an unusual red stem but a familiar taste. Imagine a Peppermint Pattie melting in your mouth.
Mix it up: Not into chocolate? Ginger mint or apple mint deliver their signature flavour along with a refreshing hint of mint.
Sweet woodruff: Also known as galium, this pretty but common ground cover makes a not-so-common herbal tea. Expect hints of vanilla and almonds. Hewson suggests sweetening the infusion with a leaf of stevia, but honey works just as well.
Mix it up: For an authentic Tibetan-style refreshment, brew a trio of sweet woodruff, basil and mint.
You might also want to taste:
- Lemon balm
- Culinary lavender
- Or, try adding "savoury" herbs, such as thyme, sage and basil, to your blends.