A tea garden is a great way to introduce herbs into your life. Herbs are an awesome addition to any garden, patio, courtyard or balcony. When added to a meal during cooking or just afterwards, they can really enhance the flavour of a dish. However, herbs can also be really beneficial when used as tea, and when you start experimenting with home-grown herbs, you will find them incredibly hard to resist, especially as a winter warmer.
Herbs have been used in tea for thousands of years for their medicinal benefits and are said to have originated in China. However herbal tea has since become very popular throughout the world and continues to become a healthier choice in the modern world.
Growing your own tea garden at home can be very cost-effective and a delicious way to add natural health benefits to your daily intake. There is nothing better than holding a warm cup of herbal tea in the cold weather and it’s even better when you can pick your own herbs from your very own tea garden.
Planning Your Tea Garden
Just like planning for any garden project, do your research before you rush out and buy everything. You will need to consider a few things before you get started. Use our steps as a guide when planning your tea garden:
- Choose your area.
- Consider your plant selection (what will you drink?).
- Plan the position of your herbs based on light, height and width of each plant.
- Learn about your herbs and how best to take care of each one.
- Plan your harvest and how you will dry and share your herbs.
Growing Herbs for Tea
There are so many awesome flavours that you can grow at home, which you can also use in your cooking. Some of our favourites include:
Peppermint – such a refreshing flavour and can aid in digestion.
Peppermint is a great choice for a pot, because like all mints, peppermint can take over your garden. A very hardy grower, they like their soil moist and grow well in semi-shade. There are lots of different flavoured mints so be on the lookout for something unusual you might like. You can also use the stem of your mint plant. If you have an oversupply, then dry the rest out and store for future use.
Chamomile – has quite a mild taste and is a very relaxing tea. It is said to calm and distress our body & mind, as well as settle our tummy.
The chamomile flower is a stunning bloom and is used in a veggie garden to attract beneficial insects because of its wide landing pad and its amazing pollen & nectar producing centre. This plant loves light soil and is happy in a sunny position, although avoid the extreme heat over summer. The chamomile flower is an annual bloomer however the flowers can be dried in the shade and stored for year-round enjoyment. To make camomile tea, you need to pick the flowers as they start to bloom. Use them fresh or dried it’s your choice all that is left to do is sip and enjoy!
Fennel – a hint of liquorice / anise flavour and is used to aid in blood pressure, detoxification and weight loss.
Fennel is a very hardy plant which survives under extreme neglect, however because of this it is also known get a bit out of control. A great way to prevent this from happening is to cut off the flowers, dry them out, and shake out the seeds. When making fennel tea, it’s the seeds that are used. Crush them roughly before you brew your tea.
Lemon Balm – as the name describes, lemon balm has a beautiful fresh lemony flavour and is used to lift your spirits and help improve concentration. It’s also a great choice for iced tea!
Lemon balm likes a shady spot in your garden, and grows all year round. Looking very much like mint, lemon balm is a low growing plant and likes moist soil. Use fresh lemon balm leaves crushed up in your tea, or dry them out and store in a container that is airtight.
The process from garden to tea-cup is a simple one. Herbal tea is an infusion of leaves, seeds, bark, roots and hot water. However, by follow these simple steps, you will not only maximise the flavour but the health benefits as well.
- Harvest in the morning, so the oils in the leaves are not affected by the sun.
- If you are using fresh herbs, bruise, tear or rub the leaves to release the oil.
- If you are drying your herbs, make sure it is on low temp over a long period of time, or let your herbs dry naturally by spreading them out on a tray in the sun. You can use a food dehydrator or on a low setting in the oven. Make sure they are completely dry before storing and label each one individually.
- Tea is ready based on flavour not colour and some will take longer than others.
Infusion or Decoction?
The infusion process is a gentle process and involves the oils in the herbs being released slowly, to infuse with the hot water.
- Fresh herbs: Use 1 tablespoon per person (approximately)
- Dried herbs: Use 1 teaspoon per person (approximately)
The decoction process is used when you are making tea with seeds, bark or roots, and involves a longer process of simmering for around 10 min. You will need to crush them with a fork first to release the oil
- Use 1 tablespoon to 2 cups of water (approximately) and strain before drinking
The benefits of a Tea Garden are plenty. Enjoy the flowers, sense and touch of the many different herbs that become part of your special space. Look out for the awesome beneficial insects that you are encouraging into your garden by creating a diverse habitat.
Herbal tea is a great way to enjoy a lovely cup of warmth during the cooler months, with added health benefits. Why not try mixing a few flavours and experimenting to find your perfect flavour.