Thyme for tea



Most of us tea lovers are so familiar with buying teabags that we can pop into a mug that we never think about going out to the garden, picking the leaves and making our own from fresh tea. But it’s surprisingly easy, and really, really good for you. Some fresh herbal teas are delicious, relaxing and have a whole host of health benefits. So if like me you love tea in the garden, why not use your garden to grow your tea?


Herbal teas can be made from a huge variety of wildflowers and herbs. A little bit of caffeine can be nice, but one of the good things about herbal teas is that they’re almost all caffeine free so you can drink as much of them as you like. As well as that, in the summer months when it’s hot, it can be lovely to make a large brew of herbal tea, and sip the delicate herbal infusion with ice throughout the day.


Read on for some really easy herbal teas to make from plants that are commonly grown in English gardens.


Preparation:

To grow herbs at home you don’t even need a big garden. Many of the following can be grown in a window box, or a pot on the patio or driveway if you’re limited on space. If you have space in the garden, grow herbs in a sheltered, sunny spot in free-draining soil. Damp soil will rot the roots. Herbs are often kept in pots regardless of space because some of them, like mint have runners that can take over the garden.


Chamomile


One of the most well-known of the herbal teas, this is famous for its calming properties. Not only is it a delicious tea and a helpful to aid sleep, but it’s a great for pollinators in the garden, and pretty too. It boosts immunity, soothes indigestion and reduces stress.

Use fresh or dried flower heads. If you’re drying the flowers, dry them out of direct sunlight to preserve volatile oils. The dried flowers can be stored in an airtight container.

For each cup of tea, use 2 teaspoons of fresh chamomile. Avoid using too hot water.


Elderflower tea


High in vitamin C, elderflower tea can be used for sinus problems, colds and flu. It’s a lovely light tea for summertime. You can add a bit of honey and/or lemon.

Please note, the flowers and berries are great to use for cordials, cooking and tea, but the seeds, leaves, branches and bark are poisonous.



Fennel


Fennel seeds are best collected from the garden just as they’re drying out and turning brown.

It has a slight liquorice flavour, can soothe anxiety and digestive problems such as acid reflux and flatulence. Studies have shown this can aid weight-loss when drunk before a meal, and can even help to calm babies with colic

Crush the seeds first with a pestle and mortar or a coffee grinder to loosen all the goodness in the seeds, and then steep in boiling water.


Lemon balm


This tea helps improve memory, reduces anxiety and helps sleep. It can also be helpful as an antiviral.

A few leaves per person are all you need to prepare this tea with boiling water.

NB. You should avoid lemon balm tea if you have a hypothyroid as it can negatively affect your thyroid medications. Anaphylactic responses and rashes have been known.


Lemon verbena


Lemon verbena is said to aid Indigestion, helps constipation, joint pain, and is rich in melatonin which makes us sleepy – for this reason its great as a bedtime brew. It’s also deliciously aromatic.

A few leaves per person are all you need to prepare tea.






Mint


Mint is super easy to grow and hard to kill. I’ve had some for years in a very small pot, and each year I’m amazed when it comes back to life despite my unintended neglect.

Mint tea is said to be good for nausea, anxiety and stomach upsets, memory loss, freshens breath. It also aids digestion.

There are around 600 different types of mint to choose from, but Moroccan mint is one of the best.

Just grab some mint leaves from the plant and pour just boiled water over them. Adjust the amount of leaves for how strong you like your tea.


Rose


Roses are a mainstay of an English garden, but did you know you can make tea out of them, as well as enjoy their flowers and perfume? Both their hips and petals can be used make a delicate, fragrant brew bursting with vitamin C.

Rosa rugosa is a good one to use for tea. Harvest the hips in autumn after the first frosts, and crush slightly before immersing in boiling water. Some people suggest removing the seeds first as the tiny hairs on them can be irritating for human intestines.

For rose petal tea, pour about 2 cups of boiling water over a couple of tablespoons of fresh rose petals, and simmer for 5 minutes or so. remove from the heat and strain.

One teaspoon of rosehips has the equivalent amount of vitamin C as 6 oranges!


Rosemary


Well known as an ingredient in cooking, did you know you can also use this to make tea?

Rosemary has a pungent aroma that focuses the mind, improves memory, joint pain and indigestion. It can be used as an antiseptic tonic, and can also improve circulation and nerves.

Pour boiling water over a sprig of rosemary per person, leave to steep for 5-10 minutes.


Sage