Now, I’ve never been a fan of herbal teas; especially the flowery ones. They taste like hot, weak squash (cordial) to me. Insipid, weedy and pointless. I’m a caffeine sensitive individual and have delighted in the wide spread of Redbush tea, which I drink with milk like a normal cuppa without the palpitations (even decaff tea gives me the jitters). I can even dunk biscuits in it. That’s my kind of tea. My opinions on herb tea are long established and generally not open to challenge. And if this were one of those sensible ‘Life Lesson’ kind of blogs, there would be a deep message here about being open to new experiences because being closed and certain means you miss out on good stuff, but it’s not that sort of blog, so we’re good. But, it is true. Best to say Yes to everything just in case. Everything except drug smuggling and Marmite, that is. No good ever came from either of those.
Anyway, on a recent visitation to a new permaculture friend, Victoria, we were offered a cup of Olive Leaf Tea. Given my general thoughts and opinions on herb teas, I was not hopeful and said yes out of politeness and a lack of any alternative. Keith, who is a tried and tested Northern tea addict, who intersperses each and every activity in his life with a cup of tea – even immediately after a cup of coffee, was even more reticent that I. Long story short, it was alright. It transpires that Olive Leaf Tea is a thing and can be purchased online should one be unfortunate enough to live in the vicinity of an olive tree (gloat). It has been used medicinally since Ancient Egyptian times and used to mummify pharaohs, should that be a selling point for a decent brew. The list of medical benefits is lengthy and includes reported aid for urinary tract infections, candida and aching joints. On a next holiday to anywhere Mediterranean, may I suggest that you forego the bottle of Ouzo and max out your baggage allowance with a bag or two of olive leaves snaffled from the many trees which undoubtedly surround you.
The leaves are picked and dried in either the oven on a very low heat or the sun if you have sufficient and crumbled into a teapot and steeped for a few minutes before straining. They have a fresh and invigorating flavour, which we heartily recommend.
The other pearl of wisdom shared with us by Victoria was that of Nespera tea. Nespera is a fruit tree, also known as a loquat which grows copiously around southern Iberia and elsewhere in the world. The small yellow fruits are delicious and seen in markets in March and April around these parts. Chinese herbalists and scientists rate nespera extremely highly in terms of its curative properties for all sorts of health conditions, ranging from reducing diabetes, releasing anti-oxidants to increase the immune system, blood pressure management and even potentially supresing some symptoms of HIV. It is truly a wonder tree. Fresh leaves and teabags can be purchased online again should you be lacking in a nespera tree (2nd gloat of the day).
Once back at home, I began to prepare a Casa Torta estate brew from nespera, lemon and rosemary leaves, all dried in the spring sun. Let me tell you that Mr Tetley has nothing on me. It is a delicious, refreshing night-time cuppa with an undercurrent of citrus and a backnote of rosemary. I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about here, so I’ll stop, but it is really good.
So, what else can you make tea out of our should your leaf selection be limited by climate or location? Obviously, all commonly grown herbs such as thyme, mint, basil and lemon verbena can be brewed, but also plants such as certain types of lavender (not all – our Portuguese variety is too bitter and camphorous to drink), raspberry leaves, dandelion root, chamomile buds and passionflower leaves to mention a few. Some experimentation with blends and mixes may be required to adjust your brew to taste, but think of that: your own unique home-grown tea! Take care of course to ensure you know what you are putting in that pot – some plants are poisonous and will not result in a health benefit; quite the opposite. If anyone has recipes or suggestions for interesting blends, please share as I’m on a roll here with what could be a new obsession.
To say that we are converts is an understatement. It is not only the drinking of the tea, but the joy and satisfaction of the process of drying and crumbling the mix of leaves into my new glass ‘tea jar’ of which I am stupidly proud, steeping the leaves in a cafetiere due to a lack of tea pot before sitting up in bed and supping the bright green, steaming brew; it looks like absinthe but without the aftermath. Life doesn’t get much better than those moments and it just goes to show that sometimes you can be wrong about things and isn’t that wonderful? To know that there may be more discoveries and adventures out there that up until now I’ve been wrong about. See? There was a moral to this tale after all, I’m deeper than I look.
This only goes to make me wonder what else I might be wrong about. Could it be that eating cake with my left hand doesn’t make it negative calories after all? Or that Marmite is nice? Get outta here…