Tag Archives | herbal tea

How to Make Fresh Tulsi Tea

Even though 2017 isn’t over yet — and it’s been a pretty big year already — I know I’ll remember it as the year I met tulsi.

I was introduced to this mesmerizing plant through the yearlong monthly herbal medicine class I’m taking with a clinical herbalist and teacher here in West Philly, Kelly McCarthy of Attic Apothecary.

I meet with her and around 15 other students one full Sunday per month at historic Bartram’s Garden, where we also maintain raised beds and learn to grow herbs from wilderness gardener (and herbalist) Mandy Katz from seed to harvest.

I think it was the second class, sitting outside with our notebooks on a balmy day this April when we studied the nervous system. We learned about adaptogens, plants that contain compounds that can help the body and mind deal with stress.

There are several, like ashwagandha root, as well as some fungi, like prized reishi mushrooms. But tulsi — also known as holy basil — piqued my interest, since I already dry and brew my own blend of culinary basil varieties for tea.

Kelly has said that if she could recommend one herb to everyone, it would be tulsi — that if everyone just got their daily dose of heady, stress-relieving tea, we’d all feel a little better.

And after taking it daily as a tea made from the dried herb (purchased through Mountain Rose herbs), I have to agree with her: during difficult, stressful times, my regular tulsi habit did seem to help make life a little brighter, a little easier to deal with.

However, tea made from dried tulsi, while pleasant to drink, is somewhat unremarkable: dark in color, earthy and tannic, and only slightly reminiscent of the pungent, bubblegum-sweet essence of the fresh herb.

It wasn’t until I was regularly harvesting it from my garden this summer that I really got to know this herb — and I had to learn to remake my daily tea all over again.

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Brewing Tea in Jars + Keeping Tea Bags in Place

clothes pinned tea bags

For the last year or so, I’ve been in the habit of brewing up a quart jar of herbal tea each morning when I make myself that vital mug of something hot and caffeinated (I’m currently deeply addicted to PG Tips with milk and honey, but I feel a coffee jag coming on any day now).

While I have no problem drinking water all day long, I’ve found that it makes for a nice treat to have something with a bit of flavor to sip with lunch. This quart jar tea fits the bill because it’s easy and helps me work through my embarrassingly large tea stash. It also frees me from the temptation of spending $3+ on an iced tea if I go out to run an errand or two in the afternoon.

verticle tea in jar

Most of the time I find myself using tea bags and have always employed the trick of attaching a clothespin to the tags on the bag to keep them from flying into the jar when I pour in the boiling water. However, back in January, I learned another way from my sister. She’s also in the habit of brewing tea in quart jars (funny how certain things run in families) and she keeps her tea bags in place with rubber bands.

When I first noticed that all the quart jars in her cabinet had rubber bands positioned below the 1 inch ring, I thought she was using them as a way for people to identify their jar. But when I asked about it, she relieved their true purpose and said that she leaves the on all the time, even when running the jars through the dishwasher.

rubber banded tea bags

I think her use of rubber bands is brilliant, particularly because it also identifies which jars are drinking glass regulars verses ones being used for canning (if you use certain jars for drinking all the time, you weaken them a little and so it’s best to keep them out of your canning ecosystem if you can as they’re more prone to breakage).

It’s also a trick to remember this summer if you have a stash of jars you use for parties and outdoor gatherings. Assign everyone a different color and pop the rubber bands on the jars to keep your drinks straight.

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