Let us depart the ethanol-tinged waters I usually tread for a more sedate beverage today: tea.
It’s chilly this week in Florida and that has me reaching for the kettle and my stash of various teas and tisanes. What’s a tisane? Well, only beverages brewed from tea leaves are tea, the herbal beverages that are frequently called teas but contain no tea leaves are technically tisanes. Doesn’t change them, really, it’s just a bit more correct.
My favorite tea is Earl Grey and Twinings is thoughful enough to provide a decaf version that most stores carry, so I can steep myself in Oil of Bergamot (that citrusy note that makes Earl Grey Tea, Earl Grey Tea). I will occasionally take it with a bit of milk and a sugar cube or two (yes, I buy sugar cubes just for drinking tea) but usually I’m good with a healthy dollop of honey for sweetness. (And as much of a geek as I am, it’s not because of Captain Picard, it’s merely a coincidence that my favorite captain prefers my favorite tea.) And for those hot months (which is most of the time, here in Florida) a mix of Earl Grey and Lemonade makes the BEST drink in the World (courtesy of the Earl of Sandwhich in Downtown Disney).
Another frequent tea in my cup is the “Herbal Revive” tisane (also from Twinings) that is essentially ginger and lemon peel with a bit of other flavors thrown in (but no actual tea leaves, hence it’s a tisane despite the fact that the package says “herbal tea”). When combined with honey, the lemon perks up a sore throat and stuffy sinuses and the ginger is good for settling an upset tummy.
Now, those two teas come in bags and I’m generally okay with bagged teas for everyday use: they’re economical and you can sometimes get another cup to half a cup out of a good tea bag by adding more hot water to the cup (referred to as “rebolitto” when talking soups, the reboiling usually gives you a slightly weaker cup of tea so if I’m planning on stretching out that cup I’ll refill once I’ve finished about 2/3 of the first one). Loose teas are generally a step up in quality and I have some of those, too, mostly from Adagio.com.
Of course, if you can’t find a blend you prefer on the store shelves, you can make a tisane out of practically anything. Put your ingredients (citrus zest strips, herbs, spices, etc) in a cup and top with water from a tea kettle and let steep for 3-8 minutes. The time depends on how tough it is for the water to work the oils and flavors from the items in your cup. Fresh herbs and zests will take less time than dried flowers of, say, chamomile or lavendar, and those take less time, still, that a bit of cinnamon stick or dried woody herbs like rosemary or thyme. You can use a tea ball or reusable muslin tea bag to steep your teas but it’s really not that tough to drink loose teas–after all, you’re supposed to sip , not gulp.
And for the gardner or hands-on tea drinker I’ve just come across this Indoor Deluxe Herbal Tea Herb Garden that I’m really itching to try. Granted, I have a pair of black thumbs, but maybe something small like this I could actually manage to grow!