Making (And Growing!) Herbal Teas at Home

Making (And Growing!) Herbal Teas at Home

By Michael Jenkins

There are very few moments that can’t be improved with a good cup of tea, and while we’ve talked about growing true tea (Camellia sinesis) at home we haven’t touched on herbal teas yet. These are a subject worthy of their own blog, so today we’ll learn a bit more about what herbal teas are and how you can grow and use them at home. Let’s dig in!

What is Herbal Tea?

True teas are all grown from the tea plant, which is where the word “tea” ultimately originates. However, over the last few centuries we’ve started to use the word “tea” for any infusion of hot water and dried plant material. So while this can be confusion to language purist, in reality it’s just how it works and how languages evolve. We’ll be using the phrase “herbal tea” to describe a tea made with herbs rather than with dried leaves from the tea plant.

Confused yet? That’s OK—it’ll make sense as we move along!

Growing Herbal Teas at Home

Many herbal teas are made from culinary herbs, which likely already have a place in your kitchen garden, herb garden, or spice rack. Many of them are very easy to grow at home, so an herb garden/herbal tea garden can be a fun, easy project for a new gardener. Here’s a brief list of some common herbals used to make herbal tea, and a bit about growing them:

  • Chamomile is a classic herb and a classic herbal tea. Easily grown—it only needs a medium sized container, a sunny (partial shade in hot climates) place to live, regular watering, and a decently rich, well drained soil. Easy to grow, easy to dry, chamomile makes for a nice relaxing tea. It combines well with lavender or mint or a tasty herbal blend.

  • Sage of all culinary varietals has a long tradition of being used as a tea. A Mediterranean herb, it likes sunny, relatively dry, temperate conditions with well drained soil. Popular in herb gardens already, many folks also enjoy the taste of sage tea, especially sweetened with a bit of local honey. Sage supposedly has many health benefits, adding to its appeal.

  • Mint comes in a dazzling and fun number of varieties and flavors, and most of them make good teas too.  You may have mint growing in your garden or sitting on your spice rack already—if it’s the former you know that mint grows prolifically and will supply you with all the tea you can drink for years to come if given enough space. Mint teas are tasty, stimulating, and they blend well with other herbs.
  • Lavender is a classic base for many herbal tea blends, and with good reason. The flavor is delicious and relaxing, making this a great herb to relax with at the end of the day. Lavender teas are delicious on their own—most folks don’t need sweeteners to enjoy them, but you certainly can add some—and it blends well with chamomile for a truly relaxing tea drinking experience.

  • Elderberry flowers make for a unique tea flavor, and give those of us growing elderberry something to do with all those blooms! Just like elderberries, proper identification is important so make double sure that you’re using the right plant. The flavor is unique—sweet with a hint of licorice—and it may not be for everyone. But it’s worth a try and can absolutely perk up an herbal tea blend.

  • Lemon balm is a prolific herb—it’s a mint relative and grows like it—and while it’s less popular with culinary gardeners it is growing in popularity and appearing more often in nurseries and herb gardens. Lemon balm has a wonderful lemon flavor, making a relaxing tea. We think it blends well with sage, because the lemon balm adds a bright note while the sage contributes richness and body. Lemon balm will thrive under any conditions where mints do well, so consider that when adding it to your garden.

These are far from your only options—stinging nettle, blackberry or raspberry leaf, ginger, lemongrass, and mulberry leaves can all make wonderful teas in addition to hundreds of other plants. We though we’d start our herbal tea journey with some relatively familiar and accessible plants, so stay tuned as we continue down this path.

Using Herbal Teas

If you’re growing your own herbs or herbal tea, you may want to dry them first as you would with any culinary herb. You can then store them in a sealed container—resealable bags work well—for months if not years. Just make sure to label the containers clearly so you know what’s in them! Generally speaking, 2-3 teaspoons of most dried teas will give you a great cup of tea, but some experimentation may be necessary to get the perfect cuppa for you.

We hope this inspires you to grow and use your own herbal teas. They’re delicious, healthy, and fun! We also hope you’ll share your experiences with us, so reach out and let us know how it goes!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published