There are so many reasons to deal with my coffee addiction. I like it with real cream and sugar so there’s the calorie load. It interferes with my sleep and gives me the jitters. It’s also something that is never going to grow in cold, wet New England. My commitment to eating a healthier, more local, sustainable diet makes it clear that the coffee has got to go. But what to put in its place as I do love sipping something hot and delicious in the morning?
Well tea, of course! And not just any tea, but tea from my own herbs, dried and sweetened with a bit of honey from our obliging bees. As many of my herbs are perennial or gathered from the wild, the cost is negligible and the freshness can’t be beat. I gather them at their peak, dry them and then mix as needed for flavor or health (generally both!).
This morning, as I was gathering fiddleheads, I realized that the nettles were popping up. Nettles are a challenge to gather. They are covered with tiny barbs that sting and stick and hurt for a long while. Thus, you should always wear cover your arms and legs and use gloves when you harvest. I tend to harvest only the tender top leaves as the bottom leaves can be bitter.
Nettle tea delivers a whole host of health benefits, including boosting the immune system, aiding in allergy control and arthritis relief, and it has been used as a folk remedy for centuries. (Click here for a list of benefits of nettle tea.)
If you have a warm, dry place you can hang your nettles until the leaves are crispy. This seldom happens here in the early spring when the nettles are at their peak so I use my food dehydrator to speed the process along.
Once dry (it doesn’t take long), I store in Mason jars until I’m ready to make my tea. I like to add dried lemon balm, holy basil and violets. As summer progresses I might add clover, lemon grass, bergamot or cat nip.
When it’s time to make tea I bring my water to a boil and pour it over my selection of herbs. It may take some experimenting to come up with a blend that suits you. Aim for 1/8 cup of herbs to one cup of water. Let this steep for at least 5 -8 minutes. You want the flavor, vitamins and minerals to be extracted. I remove the herbs from my brew but not everyone does. Lightly sweeten if you like.
In the summer, the tea is lovely iced.
Don’t have tea growing near you? Browse our selection of locally grown teas, plus mugs and unique brewing accessories.