Has anyone made their own tea? Any advice would be great!
I drink a LOT of hot tea, and really enjoy gardening. So naturally, I've been toying with the idea of drying my own leaves. I have absolutely zero knowledge about this, so I'm looking for tips/advice.
Mainly, I'd like to know more about:
-what plants/leaves you used
-the drying process
-good flavor combinations, etc.
I usually just make mint tea, since it's one of the few herbs that I managed to grow enough to use for that purpose.
I would suggest not using the oven or a high heat dehydrator, and you need to be careful when hanging some herbs up in bunches because sometimes they mold if it's too humid or if you put too many in a bunch. Also, keep any drying herbs out of the sun. The best thing that I've used is the Alton Brown Makeshift Dehydrator http://video.google.com/videoplay?doc.... It works great with herbs, won't burn or give them a cooked flavor, plus you don't have to worry about mold or with dried up leaves falling on your floor.
You can also dry small pieces of fruit with this in order to make fruit teas (I recommend cherry and blueberry). Citrus zests (lemon and orange work best) should also be dried before storing because they do have moisture and will mold or dampen other tea if you put them in a closed container without doing so. I usually roll the zest up in a paper towel or put it in a thin cotton bag before putting it in the dehydrator so it stays together.
Another thing that's good for tea is honeysuckle. It's an invasive species in most areas so harvesting as many flowers as you can is not going to be damaging. Do not attempt to grow honeysuckle just for this purpose (since it is invasive), but it should be rather easy to find it growing. Just make sure you harvest flowers from a plant that you know has not been sprayed by herbicides or pesticides.
I live in the Bay Area, and love growing a lemon verbena bush for tea.
Once mature, I cut the branches and hang them "upside down" (ie cut stem up) in the laundry room for few weeks -- till dry. Then I remove the leaves from the stems and place in glass jars to have over the year, or plastic bags for gifts to friends. Makes a great tea by itself, or mixed with some green tea.
One plant that might be of interest... Camellia Sinensis ... or as its sometimes called Tea. http://www.banana-tree.com/camellia-sinensis-tea.html has seeds. After 3 years, you can harvest the leaves.
For catnip, I recommend Mtn Lion brand Catnip. They have the strongest, most fragrant whole bud catnip on the planet you are standing on. Shake out the seeds, and plant them. It is the most potent strain around http://catniptoys.com/Merchant2/merch...
You can air-dry herbs by tying bunches at the stems tightly with string and hang them in a warm, dark, well-ventilated area that is dus-free. They'll dry in about two weeks. Or you can dry them in the oven: if you have a gas oven leave on the pilot light and spread a single layer of herbs on cookie sheets or brown paper on the oven racks. Turn the herbs once or twice daily and they'll dry in one to three days. If your oven is electric, turn it to the lowest setting and proceed as for gas, but your herbs will dry in a matter of hours.
Chamomile flower heads
Lemon verbena, lemon balm, or lemongrass
Borage leaves and flowers
Peppermint or spearmint
Catnip and fennel
Spearmint, elderberry, and lemon balm
Tansy, sage, and rosehips
Marjoram, anise, and lemon verbena
Angelica, clove, orange peel, and nutmeg
Lemon verbena and borage
Savory, lemongrass and scented geranium
Lemongrass, rosemary and thyme
Rose petals, rosehips and raspberry leaf
Nettle, ginger and hyssop
Jasmine, orange peel, and sage
Fennel and goldenrod
Chamomile and valerian
Basil, lemon verbena, lemongrass, and lemon thyme
Pennyroyal, peppermint, and ginger
Chamomile and apple mint