Creating a herbal tea that looks great, tastes great and smells divine is an art and a science. In the first of this 3-part series, I’ll be sharing the secrets medical herbalists use to create a fabulous tea. Today we’re looking at the art of blending for a tasty herbal tea.
Is it a tissane or a decoction?
Although we refer to herbal teas collectively as tea, there are two types. A tissane is the process you use when you make a brew.
Steep your herbs in a covered teapot or cup for 5-minutes, pour into your cup and enjoy. We use a tissane for the more delicate parts of the herb such as flowers and leaves.
A decoction is used for the heavier or woodier parts of the herb as they need a bit more coaxing to get the plant chemicals moving into the water.
For these, we simmer in a covered saucepan for about 15-minutes, strain and enjoy. As a general rule this method is used for your barks, roots and berries but some herbs (for example, cinnamon) transfer their plant chemicals into water quite easily. For them, you can brew using a tissane. I’ll talk more about the science of making a great tea in a later post.
Blending herbs to create a great herbal tea
Just like in the food, beverage and perfume industry, herbs contain notes. Spending time tasting your herbs will allow you to discover which herbs can be used as a base note, a middle note or a top note.
The base notes add substance to your tea. They are generally quite earthy or bitter in taste and ground the tea experience.
Your middle notes are the substantial theme of the tea. They contain a variety of notes in the middle of the range which work well with your base note herbs. Your top notes are where you add a bit of peak or add some interest to the taste.
Here are some examples:
Base notes – dandelion root, burdock root, gentian root, barberry root. Experiment with how much of the base note to add. Some people prefer a good bitter taste to underpin the tea, other people really struggle with the bitter taste. Many bitter herbs contain both bitter and sweet tastes to them so it’s best to do some herb tasting to get to know the individual tastes and mouth feel before blending your herbs.
Middle notes – depend on what you are wanting to achieve with your tea. Common examples include your Mediterranean herbs such as sage and rosemary. If you are wanting a more relaxing tea, marshmallow, skullcap and chamomile also make lovely additions to the mid range.
Top notes – peppermint, tulsi, your lemon tasting herbs such as lemon balm and lemon verbena, and your delicate flowers. Getting to know these herbs before blending will really make a difference to your tea. Too much peppermint, for example, results in a tea that tastes overwhelmingly of peppermint. Experiment with the amount you add so that you use it to peak the taste of the other herbs rather than flavour your tea.