For that perfect cup of herbal tea

This article was originally published under the same title in the Metro Plus supplement of The Hindu newspaper, Coimbatore, on 03 Jan 2018

A few leaves or flowers from the pot on your balcony or garden will do for that perfect cuppa

A few leaves or flowers from the pot on your balcony or garden will do for that perfect cuppa

Sometimes what I miss most is my lost ability to enjoy that cup of tea or coffee with creamy milk and dollops of sugar, which we abandoned 10 years ago after attending a course by a naturopath who asked us to go cold turkey. The first couple of weeks were about headaches, irritability and the urge to throw something. The naturopath assured us that, for most people, drinking tea or coffee was more about drinking something hot and sweet, and that any hot drink would do. That’s how our quest for herbal teas began.

We picked up green teas and herbal teas in fancy packaging and grew to enjoy them. When I started my first balcony garden in an apartment on the 21st floor, one of the first plants that put forth was lemongrass and mint (pudina). I chopped some fresh lemongrass, put it in boiling water, added some crushed ginger along with raw cane sugar and made my first herbal tea from the garden. We had never had lemongrass tea before; it had a fresh, tangy, lemony flavor and aroma. I followed it with pudina tea. These became the staple beverages at home.

I continued the practice of tea from the balcony garden in all our apartments. Now we have a garden and, in it, our teas along with other greens. We pluck our ‘tea’ early in the morning or whenever we want to have a hot drink. We have a choice of herbal teas growing right there in our garden.

The lemongrass clump with its aromatic sharp long leaves grows most of the year. It is great not only for tea but is also a great flavoring agent known for its health benefits that include but are not limited to being a good detoxifying agent and having anti-microbial and anti-fungal qualities.

Tulsi (holy basil) is another favorite. Just pop a few leaves and the young flowers into the kettle with boiling water and sweeten either with raw cane sugar or palm jaggery, add crushed pepper or ginger and you get a drink perfect for that stubborn cold and sore throat. Tulsi is known for its healing properties and grows quickly and easily.

Mint is the other easy herb to grow; a few stems from the pudina we buy from the market is enough to start growing the herb. It needs good moisture and is fussy only during certain times of the year.

Apart from the leaves, there are flowers that make a good cup. Avaram poo (Tanner’s cassia), a wild shrub with sunshine yellow flowers that grow abundantly in Tamil Nadu, makes a flower tea that may not be everyone’s cup, as it is slightly bitter. But it is known for its hydrating properties and used extensively in the summer. Hibiscus flowers make a relaxing tea and turn almost purple in color once infused. Roselle (gongura) flowers are yet another option. The best part is that all these teas can be had cold as well.

Grow them on the windowsill or on your balcony. That will be the best kind of tea you will brew.

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