Teas can be made with the leaves, roots, stems, flowers and fruit of a great many herbs and plants. The art of steeping dried or fresh herbs in hot water goes back many thousands of years. Forget about most of the nasty powdery stuff you get in today’s tea bags – it has its uses, but when it comes to drinking it really is second-rate compared with the real thing. If you doubt this, then find a good-quality store which sells loose tea by weight rather than in packets and try it. This is especially true for most of the herbal teas which are on sale: being manufactured so as to have a long shelf life, they tend to need a lot of steeping, which also brings some of the bitter flavours to the lore. These teas almost always need large quantities of sugar or honey to make them palatable! If you prepare you own brews from basic ingredients you will find this gives a completely different flavour, not to mention actually promoting their health-giving or magickal properties.It is recommended that you use only manufactured teas when you are seeking remedies for babies or young children, as they are designed to be tolerated by the young and palatable to them. When making tea or any other herbal infusion there are certain ways of making the most of your preparation.
Always use china or glass and never metal or plastic, as many herbs will react with these to taint the flavour. Always use clean utensils. It used to be said that you should never really clean a teapot as this would change the taste of the tea. Too right it does – it allows you to revisit the old tired tannins and other extracts which remain on the crockery. Not a good thing!
Try to ensure that your kettle is clean, especially if your water supply is very chalky or has a lot of chemical in it. Only fill your kettle with as much water as you will need – this conserves both water and electricity – and always boil freshly drawn water, don’t reboil it.
If you can, try to make your teas with filtered or spring water. Where you are certain there is little air pollution, rain water is ideal. For magickal brews the best results are gained by collecting rain water and exposing it, in a clear jar, to the light of the Full Moon.
Make your tea just before you intend to drink it and strain it as soon as the herbs have had the right amount of time to soak, even if you do intend to have a second cup. The longer the herbs remain in the water, the more any bitter taste will emerge. If you make up tea blends in advance, keep them in an airtight container in a dark and cool place, and discard unused combination after a couple of months. No infusion should need to stand for more than 12 minutes. If it is not strong enough after that, make a note to add more of the herb next time.
Chilled teas will need to be covered in the refrigerator, otherwise they may take up other flavours or release their own to contaminate other foods (especially milk).
Most herb teas are not intended to be drunk more than three times a day. You can have too much of a good thing! In an ideal world the rest of your daily fluid intake would be made up of water. Herb teas are also intended to be drunk warm, not boiling, and sipped slowly, if you have a great thirst, then drink a glass of water whilst waiting for your tea to cool.
Where possible, take your time over preparing and drinking your tea, as you will find it enhances the flavour as well as the effects. Remember to inhale the aromas too. Take a tip from the Japanese, who are famous for their tea rituals, take your time.