Create Your Own Tea Blends
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An array of colors, textures and aromas can make children feel like they’re concocting a magic potion as they blend a bit and a pinch of fun. Creating your own family flavors by experimenting with your favorite flavors might become holiday gifts, packaged in decorative containers.
These are a few of the tea herbs and spices frequently found in herbal tea blends:
- Apple – dried bits
- Barley – roasted
- Bee Balm
- Blueberries – dried
- Cinnamon bark
- Cocoa powder
- Cranberries – dried
- Echinacea root
- Ginger root
- Jasmine flowers
- Licorice root
- Lemon Balm
- Lemon peel
- Lemon Verbena
- Lime peel
- Orange peel
- Raspberry leaves
- Rose hips
- Rose petals or buds
- Tea – green, black, white, oolong, etc.
- Vanilla bean
- Wintergreen leaf
Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food. — Hippocrates
How to begin:
Start with familiar favorites. Almost everyone knows the taste of cinnamon and orange as a flavored tea, or lemon and mint, apples and berries. Decide on the dominant flavor and make this the foundation of your blend. As you consider other flavors, try to imagine what they might taste like together.
For your first blends, limit your ingredients, perhaps just 3 – 4, so that you can distinctly taste each of the flavors in your blend. It helps to brew a sampling of a new or long-forgotten flavor before you try it in a blend. For example, Tulsi (also known as Holy Basil) is very popular in tea blends. You may have tasted it in combination with other flavors. But you will probably be happier with your final result if you prepare and taste it separately first, before blending it with anything else.
Most health food stores now stock wide varieties of herbs for blending your own teas. Go with a prepared list of ingredients you know you want but then take time to explore other possibilities. Tea blending and brewing is a sensory experience and the more we remain open to all possibilities, the more exciting it becomes and the more we benefit from tea drinking.
Can you make it a guessing game in the store? Fill the bag with a well-known flavor and then ask your companions – children and adults – to guess the name by smell alone.
Weights and measures:
If you were to weigh the crushed contents in teabags designed to brew an 8-ounce mug, you would find that the net weight of the botanical materials is between 2 and 4 grams. We sometimes think of measuring tea for a single cup as a heaping teaspoon. But when we begin to blend herbs, it’s very difficult to do so in these small quantities. So, we usually create blends in slightly larger quantities – so that you end up with about 1 cup of your dry blend.
Depending on the accuracy you want, you may be very happy with measuring by teaspoons and tablespoons or you may want to use a digital gram scale to measure by weight rather than by volume.
You can translate your recipe for your tea blend into different quantities if you think of your ingredients as percentages of the whole amount you want to create. An example would be this lemon-chamomile tea: 50% lemon grass, 20% chamomile, 10% lemon peel, 10% lemon balm. In this blend, the tartness of the three lemon ingredients is sweetened by a generous amount of chamomile. Using the percentage method allows you to mix a batch small enough for personal use or large enough to brew gallons.
Using a mortar and pestle, you can crush hard spices or large flowers into finer grains that infuse more quickly and more easily fill teabags. This is an old-fashioned piece of equipment that is fun for kids and adults. There are also various kinds of grinders that can help you prepare your blend, if needed.
One method used to flavor teas is to add a liquid essence – oil or concentrate. The easiest way to use this is to allow a few drops to coat the inside of a clean jar. Add your dry blend, shake it vigorously and then allow it to sit for 12 – 24 hours. Shake occasionally during this time. Note that using good quality flavoring is as important as using healthy botanicals. Poor quality flavoring components can have an unpleasant aftertaste.
If you’ve ever tasted Jasmine Tea, you’ve tasted a scented tea. To make it, the dry tea is stored with freshly picked flowers until the tea absorbs the scent. Then they are separated. This is also done with other kinds of flowers that are not as well known. You can use this same technique with some of your aromatic edible flowers such as roses and and chrysanthemum. It’s also possible to scent your tea with a whole cinnamon stick or vanilla bean.
Your tea will retain its flavor and healthful qualities if it is stored in an airtight container, in a cool place where it will not be degraded by direct sunlight. Herbs should all be stored in airtight containers until you’re ready to use them.
Filling your own teabags:
There are several styles and sizes of fill-yourself-teabags. The one thing to remember is to pack the tea loosely. Most have a flap that can be folded over or they are tall enough to tie in a knot. The filter material is usually thin and porous enough to pierce with a short wooden skewer that spans the top of your cup suspends the tea in the water. This top section can also be tied closed with a bit of colored embroidery floss and is usually long enough to drape over the side of the cup.
Tips For A Tea-Blending Party
What you enjoy sharing with your own family can easily become a party. Everyone can make their own recipe for a blended tea, compare flavors and go home with a batch of their creation. What a healthy party activity!
- If you’re organizing a group to blend teas, it is easier to measure by teaspoons rather than by weight. Make tags for each ingredient and provide a separate spoon in each bowl.
- Have your guests select 3-4 of their favorite ingredients, measuring a full, half or “pinch” of each into their own cups.
- Suggest that they write the recipes on a card so that, if they like it, they can make more. Or, if it’s not quite right, they can make adjustments.
- Mix the ingredients thoroughly, shaking the cup or stirring with spoons.
- Give each guest a fill-it-yourself teabag.
- Measure a heaping spoonful to the bag and tie it closed with a piece of thin, white thread or colored embroidery floss.
- Brew a cup of tea with each blend. Then remove the teabags.
- Pour a small amount of each one into individual tasting cups (or disposable condiment cups).
- Consider making it a blind tasting with the samples numbered.
- Can the guests guess their own blend? Which ones are the favorites?
- Finally, mix another batch of the best recipes and serve with the party snacks.
- Have enough dry ingredients and fill-it-yourself teabags that guests can make extras to take home.