Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Simply Perfect Mint Tea

While I was brewing tea this morning, I was thinking about my collection of teapots that are patiently waiting to be unpacked from storage one day. Naturally, in the spirit of minimalism, I only need one teapot, but somehow I’ve acquired several over the years – a couple I inherited from my mother, some were gifts, and I’ve purchased a few of them myself. Of course, to go along with the teapots, one must have proper teacups and saucers because everyone knows that drinking tea from a coffee mug is barbaric. Worse yet, don’t even think about serving tea from a porcelain coffee pot! Yikes! Remember the song, “I’m a little teapot, short and stout…” next time you reach for that tall “teapot” that’s really part of a coffee service.

Okay, I admit… I’m a china snob. I can’t help it. One of my first jobs was at Dillard’s Department Store, where I worked in the china department. I loved it. It was like being a little girl and getting to go to a tea party every day. My favorite part of the working there was using the various china patterns to create appealing table settings, complete with folded linen napkins and centerpieces. And yes, I know how to place all the silverware around the place settings and which one is used for what. Not exactly the most practical knowledge for a semi-underclass citizen like myself, but you never know when it might come in handy.

In addition to my love of teapots and tea, I also enjoy cooking and collecting recipes. While cooking is considered a chore or merely part of a daily routine by most people, it’s something I love doing – especially for a large group of people, which is apparent by my lack of ability to prepare anything in 1-2 serving size portions. More often than not, my refrigerator and pantry are usually lacking enough food or the right ingredients to do any “real” cooking. This situation often makes it difficult to enjoy looking for recipes online. It makes me feel like a starving street urchin with her hands and nose pressed to the window of a restaurant or bakery, salivating over the platters of food being served to the more fortunate patrons inside. Still, I continue to look and dream of having my own kitchen again one day.

Despite my lack of a teapot at the present time, I make due with a sauce pan or stock pot. At least I can boil water. Purchasing quality loose tea leaves, however, can be a bit sketchy for me sometimes, but I do my best. So on days like today, I can appreciate having what is needed to make something that I enjoy, like my very own special blend of tea.

Once I finished brewing my tea this morning, I decided that I should share with my readers what I consider to be the best ever mint tea as my way of saying, “Thanks for the 8000 views on my blog!” By the way, all of the herbs I use are certified organic. Yep… I’m also a tea snob apparently. So here is my recipe for a yummy hot tea that also makes a great iced tea:

Simply Perfect Mint Tea Recipe

3 parts dried peppermint leaf
2 parts dried spearmint leaf
1 part dried red clover leaf
1 part dried lemon balm leaf
1/8 part stevia leaf to sweeten (optional)
Raw sugar or unrefined sugar crystals to taste (optional)
1 8-12 cup unbleached basket coffee filter
1 4-quart stock pot
1 2-quart or 1-gallon container

Combine the dried herbs and place in the center the coffee filter. Gather the edges and tie it tight so that the herbs don’t  fall out. You can use a tea infuser, strainer, or muslin bag instead of a paper filter, but I find that the dried leaves still leak out a little in those and I prefer none of that in my tea.

If you’re making only one cup of tea at a time, you can use a disposable tea bag. Pour some boiling water into a teacup and let it cool slightly before dropping the tea bag into the water. Let it steep for at least a few minutes.

For large batches, fill the stockpot with enough filtered drinking water to fill the size container you’ll be using to store the tea in the refrigerator, plus a little extra to allow for some evaporation.

Heat the water on a medium heat until just before it starts to boil. Don’t bring it to a complete rapid boil. Turn off the stove but leave the pot on the burner to warm. Add the herb bundle to the water, cover, and let it steep for at least 30 minutes. The longer the herb bundle stays in the water, the stronger the tea will be.

Enjoy a cup or two of this freshly brewed tea before storing the rest in the refrigerator. It’s great served cold or hot.

If you decide to use raw sugar instead of stevia, add it to the water while heating so that it dissolves completely and sweetens the tea while it steeps. You can also use a combination of stevia and raw sugar. Sweeten to taste, or leave it unsweetened. I use about half a teaspoon of stevia leaf and 2 tablespoons of raw sugar in my 2-quart mixture for a slightly sweet tea. I don’t recommend using Liquid Stevia instead of the dried herb because it will leave you with an unpleasant artificial after taste.

If you prefer spearmint over peppermint, switch the portions around so that you use more spearmint than peppermint. For a 2-quart container, my herb bundle ends up measuring about 1/3 cup with all of the dried leaves combined. The total amount will vary depending on how strong you like your tea.

To make a large batch of herb mixture to store for future use, combine in a large mixing bowl enough herbs to fill a container. Gently toss the dried leaves until all are evenly mixed. Pour into your container, seal so that it’s airtight, and store your Simply Perfect Mint Tea in a cool, dark, dry place to preserve the integrity of the flavor. Spank the bottom of the container to remove excess air between the leaves. Make sure the lid is securely in place before you do this; otherwise, you’ll have a big mess to clean up (yes, I speak from experience). I store my loose leaf tea in a mason jar, but it’s kept in a cupboard so it’s not exposed to light. It can be stored in a stainless steel or ceramic container as long as it’s airtight.

Peppermint and spearmint are great for relieving digestive issues like gas, bloating, heartburn, or nausea; and they are rich in antioxidants. Lemon balm helps ease winter blues. When used with other calming herbs like valerian root or chamomile, it reduces insomnia and anxiety. Try adding a little chamomile to this recipe for an extra soothing effect, but not too much or you'll alter the minty flavor.

I hope you enjoy this tea as much as I do. Thanks for reading!

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