Cooking With Herbs

Recipes, thoughts, and hints for enjoying herbs in the kitchen



Tasty and Refreshing Herb Teas

I love to sit in my bay window on a cold afternoon to enjoy the sun or watch the snow slowly bury the bushes beneath its protective blanket.  A cup of herbal tea and a crunchy cookie make the experience even more enjoyable.  In France herbal brews are known as tisanes to distinguish them from regular tea, but no matter the name, they deliver comfort, pleasure, and a variety of flavors.  Some even possess properties that can alleviate minor ailments.

The proportions for brewing herbal teas are straightforward:  l teaspoon of dried or 1 tablespoon of crushed or bruised fresh herbs to one cup of water.  Pour boiling water over the flowers, seeds, or leaves and let them steep, covered, for up to 10 minutes.  Roots and bark need more coaxing to release their oils and are usually brewed as a decoction using the same proportions. Put the herbs in cool water, bring it to the simmering point, then simmer, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes.  If you like your tea strong, it’s better to add more herbs rather than more time because letting them steep or simmer too long will sometimes bring out a bitter taste.

Because herbs contain plant alkaloids that are extremely sensitive to some metals, it’s best to infuse the tea in an all-glass, enamel, or ceramic container.  And that’s why ceramic or bamboo strainers are better strainers than common metal.  Brew herbs singly or combine several to create your own special flavor.  Adding bits of orange or lemon peel or spices like cloves and cinnamon expands your options.  Once you’ve found a combination you like, mix up a quantity and store it in an airtight glass jar in a cool dark cupboard or pack it into tea bags for convenience. 

Some of the most popular herbs for teatime drinking are:

Mint – deliciously refreshing and a great mixer.

Lemon Verbena – the most lemony of herbs with a built-in sweetness.

Chamomile – a fruity aroma that blends well with other herbs

Hibiscus – a tangy, citrus flavor

Lavender Flowers – sweet and exotic

Rose Geranium – a spicy rose flavor

Thyme – pungent and spicy

Rose Hips – a slight citrus flavor

Bee Balm – adds a spicy touch

Lemon Balm – lemony but less intense than lemon verbena

Here are two of my favorite blends.  If you want to substitute fresh herbs, triple the amount.


Delicious hot or cold.

¼ cup dried lemon balm leaves

1 tablespoon dried lemon thyme leaves

¼ cup dried lemon verbena leaves

¼ cup dried lemon geranium leaves

1 tablespoon dried lemon grass

1 tablespoon dried lavender blossoms

Makes about 12 cups.


A flavorful blend for a relaxing break.

¼ cup dried hibiscus flowers

½ cup dried chamomile

2 tablespoons dried rose hips

1 tablespoon dried orange peel

1 3-inch cinnamon stick, crushed

Makes about 12 cups



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© photos Chris Mead, Emelie Tolley;  text Emelie Tolley



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