Have you ever looked at your herbs and said I wonder if I could use them for tea? Or simply love tea and would love to grow tea? I had the pleasure of interviewing Cassie Liversidge, author of Homegrown Tea: An Illustrated Guide to Planting, Harvesting, and Blending Teas and Tisanes about her new book how to grow tea using herbs.
Before you read the interview, I absolutely adore Cassie’s book. The photography is gorgeous and Cassie has a wonderful way of explaining how to make tea with various herbs that you already grow in your garden.
In fact, you might even want to start growing some of the plants she uses. She walks you through how to grow the plants from seed in pots or in the ground. Thanks to Cassie, I will be growing some new plants this summer. She convinced me to try my hand at growing a New Jersey tea plant.
Grow Tea–The Interview
1. How did you get interested in growing your own herbs to make teas?
I have always loved growing plants, especially edible plants. My parents had a plant nursery, as well as having an amazing garden, full of fruit and vegetables so I grew up with this way of life. I love tea; the whole tradition of tea. I respect the fact that tea makes people stop and have a break and it connects people. Tea and tisanes can really make you feel better too. Growing your own herbs and plants to use for tea gives you a greater supply year after year and lets you be in control of the quality of your tea.
2. Do you grow all the plants you list in your book?
Yes, I have done. I have a small garden, but it is full of plants, mainly grown in pots. Because so many people have limited growing space nowadays it was important to me that I selected a wide range of plants, some are suitable if you do have a big garden but some are good for a small space and even to grow indoors.
3. What are your 5 favorite herbs to plant and use as teas?
It is very difficult to narrow it down to five as I like different teas at different times of year. I really like to have rose hip (Rosa) or myrtle (myrtus communis) tea in the winter-time, when I need a bit of a boost against catching a cold or a cough. I harvest these from established plants, year after year.
I also love chamomile tea in the evenings, as it is such a relaxing tea. I sow chamomile (Chamomile nobile) from seed in the spring each year. One packet of seeds should hopefully provide you with enough chamomile tea for a year. You can also grow lots of manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) plants from seed or you can start with a larger plant. Manuka is an amazing, flavoursome tea made from the stems and leaves of the plant.
I love mint (Mentha) tea at all times of the year. It is such a great tea to help your digestion and the plants are so easy to grow. I also have to add lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla) to my favorites list. This is not the easiest plant to grow as the seeds need a warm climate to germinate and the plants do not like the temperature to drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. However, find a good strong plant to begin with, and protect it from cold weather if you live in a colder climate, and you will be rewarded. Lemon verbena has the most crisp lemon scent and taste; it is a delicious and refreshing tea.
4. What are your 3 favorite herb tea combination?
Saffron (Crocus sativus) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) are a brilliant combination. A pinch of rosemary with four or five strands of saffron makes a stunning, flavoursome herbal tea. Jasmine (Jasminum sambac) and green tea (Camellia sinensis) are well known partners. The Camellia sinensis leaves are suffused with the glorious jasmine flower scent over many hours. It is a very calming tea.
Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) and hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) is a great tasting, antioxidant tea. Put two pinches of ground blueberry and a small pinch of fresh or dried hyssop leaves into a tea bag or teapot and steep for three to four minutes.
5. Which three plants would you recommend a newbie plant to start them on their own tea journey? (ie the least fuss but greatest reward.)
Mint is so easy to grow, either from seed or from a cutting from a supermarket. Keep your mint plant in a container though, as it can take over your garden. Lemon balm is also very easy to grow from seed and, as it is related to mint it can be an invasive plant, so keep it contained. I would also recommend growing calendula, one of the oldest cultivated plants. Calendula seeds germinate very quickly and you can be harvesting the bright orange and yellow flowers within two months.
6. What advice would you give someone who is just starting out to grow their own tea?
Think about the amount of growing space you have, and about your climate and choose plants most suited to your location. Gardening is a wonderful way of connecting you with the land and the whole ecology of your area. Don’t worry if you have some disasters. The key is to get started, as growing your own is truly rewarding. Gardening organically is also the way to go, so that we work in harmony with our environment and do not fight against it.
7. What is the best way to make sure you store your tea appropriately and how to make sure it is ready for storage?
Plants should be completely dry and crispy before you try and store them. You can dry plants in many ways including in a dehydrator or in an oven set on a low heat. You should store them in sealed glass containers in a dark cupboard to help best preserve its colour and flavour.
Be sure to order your book, Homegrown Tea: An Illustrated Guide to Planting, Harvesting, and Blending Teas and Tisanes and start growing your own herbs.
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