The Ritual of Tea

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Tea.

So much to love and enjoy! What makes savoring tea special for you?

Do you feel like you just need to step out of the busyness of your day? I love moving into the ritual of making tea to do just that. Add herbs and you have a mindful cup of goodness supporting your well-being. Herbs are strong allies and one reason I love using them in my blends.

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Refreshing the Spirit

Boosting Vitality

Reducing Weariness

 

These have been the driving forces for centuries of tea drinking. I participate in the ritual of making and savoring tea daily because of how it makes me feel. The act of preparing centers me, the aromas ground me, and the taste transports me.

There are many ways to savor tea and I believe that the way you prepare it affects the experience. What is your common method of preparing and drinking tea? 

To make the most of the experience, I encourage you to find a beautiful cup. Select on that brings you joy. It could be the color, the way it fits your hand, how it feels on your lips, the memories of a certain place it evokes, or even a quote that inspires you. Use this mug as often as possible in your tea ritual. Allow its beauty and familiarity to set your tea time apart from the rest of your day.

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Loose leaf teas and whole herbs naturally lend themselves to the ritual of tea. Turn the steeping process into part of the entire experience by watching the leaves unfurl in the hot water. Whether you are making a cup or a pot, using whole leaves brings a flavor complexity missing in the finely chopped leaves of a tea bag.

To prepare a single cup in your mug, select something that allows the tea and herbs room to open as they steep. I prefer a tea infuser basket as it allows the most room for your tea and herbs to expand. It is open on top, allowing you to further slow down as you watch your tea transform. The ease in cleaning an infuser basket promotes frequency in performing your tea ritual.

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A tea kettle to heat the water completes the ritual when I am home. The slow heating of my water to the temperature I desire; followed by slowly pouring it over the tea. Smelling the tea and herbs in the steam as a preview to the drinking experience prepares me to savor my cup. Sipping the prepared cup and tasting all the flavors present. 

A breath of calm marking moments of my day.

Tea has a way of bringing together community. Invite your closest friend over for a cup of tea. Savor the experience together.

 

When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment.
— Muriel Barberry
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Herb Spotlight: Peppermint

Ready for a great tasting, easy to grow herb for your garden?

Peppermint is part of a huge family of herbs. It is actually a hybrid between two other types of mint, water mint and spearmint. Like all mints, Peppermint grows well in most locations. It prefers moist soil and will spread easily. In fact, the trick is to keep it from spreading everywhere! All mints have the square stems with opposite leaves. Peppermint has a purple stem. Out of the mint family, Peppermint is considered the herb with the most health benefits. It’s cooling, calming, and aromatic. Peppermint leaves make a great tea. You can find it in my Lavender Mint Dream tisane.

This herb is most used for cramping and upset in the digestive tract along with menstrual cramps, headaches, congestion, insomnia, nausea, and colds and flu. The menthol present in the herb is often extracted and used in a variety of products. It is this constituent that helps to soothe the smooth muscles of the digestive tract and uterus.

Mint has had a varied and useful past which is really fascinating to me. Early references to mint encapsulated all the varieties as there were no differentiation.  In ancient Palestine mint was an acceptable form of tax payment. In Greek mythology Pluto fell in love with a nymph named Minthe and Persephone in a fit of jealousy turned the nymph into the plant mint. Greeks also used mint to prevent milk spoilage. It has long been used as a way to mask distasteful flavors and to enhance flavors when cooking.

Some things to keep in mind with mint is some do not recommend it in large doses for pregnant or breast feeding women. Most cautions are about peppermint oil, which is highly concentrated and can be lethal in too large of quantities. The leaf is a much safe form. It is recommended for morning sicknes as a tea. The best thing is to consult your doctor or wellness professionals to determine its safety for you. It is possible to develop symptoms of an allergic reaction as well.

 

Resources:

  • Castleman, Michael. The New Healing Herbs. Revised and Updated. Bantam Books. 2002. p.465-471
  • Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs A Beginner’s Guide. Storey Publishing. 2012. p.184-187
  • Peppermint. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved on June 6, 2016. Retrieved from            http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/peppermint
  • Peppermint. Mountain Rose Herbs. Retrieved on June 6, 2016. Retrieved from  https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/products/peppermint-leaf/profile
  • Peppermint Oil. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health https://nccih.nih.gov/health/peppermintoil

 

Lavender Mint Dream Cheesecake

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Don’t you agree that Lavender Mint Dream Cheesecake sounds so decadent? Or should I say dreamy?

I have a few favorite desserts and cheesecake is one of them. I admit this recipe was a bit of a challenge. It took a couple of times to get the taste of the Lavender Mint Dream the way I wanted it to have. This is a very mild recipe with just a touch of the Lavender Mint Dream present.

I selected the Lavender Mint Dream for this recipe as lavender pairs really well with baked goods. I enjoy using it in small amounts by itself when baking as it can be very overpowering. But here, combined with the peppermint and chamomile in my Lavender Mint Dream, it has the perfect balance.

Part of the success is in using a lot of tea for a small amount of water and letting it steep longer than you would when drinking a cup. I use both the liquid and the softened herbs in the recipe to get the flavor I wanted. My first go at it was with just the liquid and it really was not as strong a taste as I wanted. The herbs also give texture and color to the cheesecake too that I find perfect for this time of year.

Create the recipe, make a pot of tea, and take it all outside to enjoy the view and sounds of a warm summer night.

Lavender Mint Dream Cheesecake

Makes an 8” cheesecake

 

Lavender Mint Dream prepared tisane

2 ½ Tablespoons Lavender Mint Dream

¼ cup Hot Water

Instructions:

  • Place Lavender Mint Dream in glass measuring cup
  • Pour the hot water over the tea
  • Stir and let steep until cool, about 30 minutes
  • Set aside for use in recipe below

Crust

2 cups crushed Graham Crackers (I use Gluten-Free ones here)

¼ cup Ghee or Butter, melted

1 Tablespoon of Steeped Lavender Mint Dream (liquid and herbs)

Filling

2 packages Cream Cheese, softened

2/3 cup Coconut Sugar

2 teaspoon Gluten-Free Flour

½ teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

2 ½ Tablespoons Steeped Lavender Mint Dream (liquid and herbs)

2 Eggs, set out to bring closer to room temperature

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 375° (350° if you have a dark springform pan like mine)
  • Crush the graham crackers and melt the butter or ghee
  • In a medium bowl, combine graham crackers, melted butter, and steeped tea
  • Blend until the graham crackers have absorbed all the liquid
  • Press into the bottom and 1” up the sides of the pan
  • Set aside
  • In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese and coconut sugar
  • Blend until well combined and then some
  • Blend in the flour, vanilla, and Lavender Mint Dream
  • Add the eggs and combine well
  • Pour the filling into the pan
  • Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes, checking at 30 minutes, until the cheesecake is mostly set with a little wobble in the center
  • Remove from oven and set pan on a wire rack
  • Cool for 30 minutes and remove springform
  • Cool completely then cover and refrigerate for 4 hours

Herb Spotlight: Lady's Mantle

 

Another beautiful herb in my Lady’s Herb tea is Lady’s Mantle, Alchemilla vulgaris. It may not be as well-known as Red Raspberry Leaf, yet this herb has a rich tradition in Europe for supporting a woman’s health. The Latin name, Alchemilla, refers to its common nickname “herb of the alchemist” stemming from this herb being both associated with the Virgin Mary and the belief that the dew collected from this plant has magical properties useful in alchemy(1,).

Lady’s Mantle is highly astringent. The plant contains tannins similar to what is found in tea. This is part of the properties that make the herb so beneficial for excessive bleeding. It is most often used in cases of heavy menstrual bleeding but it also works topically on sores and wounds to reduce inflammation and help the body heal faster. The herb is also used for cases of diarrhea.(1,2,3,4)

Lady’s Mantle is beneficial at all stages of a woman’s life and is often combined with Red Raspberry Leaf (3), as I have with Lady’s Herb tea. It can be taken to lessen chances of hemorrhaging during childbirth and is beneficial postpartum. Some women also take it as an infusion in the week prior to menstruation to ease heavy flows and to benefit from its sedative qualities to reduce cramping.(1,3,4)

Native to Europe, Lady’s Mantle also grows well in the northeastern United States and parts of Canada. It is low growing and has green accordion-like leaves. The flowers are small and greenish to slightly yellow. If you grow this herb, harvest it in June or July when it is flowering. Flowers and leaves are the most commonly used parts.(1,5)

This herb is considered safe both in dosing and frequency but as always, consult with an herbalist or your doctor before you take this in therapeutic doses.(3)

Resources:

  1. Gladstar, Rosemary. Herbal Healing for Women. Simon & Schuster. 1993. p.176, 199, 245
  2. Hoffmann, David. The Herbal Handbook: A User’s Guide to Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press. 1998. p.148
  3. Whelan, Richard. Lady’s Mantle. Retrieved on May 1, 2017. Retrieved from http://www.rjwhelan.co.nz/herbs%20A-Z/ladys_mantle.html
  4. Nina from shalommamma.com. Lady’s Mantle an Herb for All Stages of Life (+ Happy Uterus Tea Recipe). Retrieved on May 1, 2017. Retrieved from http://www.modernalternativepregnancy.com/2013/04/01/ladys-mantle-an-herb-for-all-stages-of-life-happy-uterus-tea-recipe/
  5. Fetrow, Charles W., Pharm. D. and Avila, Juan R., Pharm. D. The Complete Guide to Herbal Medicines. Pocket Books. 2000. p.321-322

Behind the Scenes: Moon Teas

Do you pay attention to the moon cycles?

Are you interested in making relaxing teas for yourself?

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One of the things I do is pay attention to the moon cycles. If you have not tried it, it is simple to get started. Start paying attention to the new moon and the full moon. Each phase of the moon has its own qualities yet I find the new and full moons have a particular pull for me. Tomorrow is the new moon and a great time to start.

In fact the new (or dark) moon is the beginning of the lunar cycle. It is the time when things turn inward and begin to germinate. A great time to dream and plan new projects happens at this phase. Many women menstruate at this time too. The new moon is about slowing down, gathering energy, and renewing focus. I generally focus on self-care and keeping my calendar as light as possible during the new moon.

The full moon is the opposite. It is a time of high energy, of action, and seeing things come to fruition. This is a great time to be taking steps to implement your new projects dreamed of during the new moon. It is about using the energy you gathered at the dark moon and directing it to create something new or to accomplish your goals.

The energy of each moon is strong the day before, the day of, and the day after. Making moon teas are a great way to take in the energy of each moon. Once you create your moon tea, enjoy a cup of it each evening. It is best taken cold or at room temperature but not heated. The energy of the moon is a cooler energy than the sun.

I generally do not enjoy rose beverages but in this combination it is delicate and subtle. Rose is a feminine herb, making it great for moon teas and getting in touch with the yin aspects of the moon. Dandelion cleanses the liver and kidneys. I am using it here as a release of the old in terms of the new moon energy. Be sure to drink this early in the evening as Dandelion is a diuretic. Cinnamon brings a little warmth and spice to the blend. I find it to be a grounding herb for myself and hope you will enjoy its benefits here.

As traditionally used in herbal recipes, my measurements are in parts. This allows you to measure the herbs as you are comfortable, whether that is ounces, teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, etc, and keeping with the ratios. The measurement you choose needs to remain consistent throughout.

 

Melissa’s Moon Tea Recipe

Moon Tea Herbs

 

1 part dried Dandelion leaf

1 part Cinnamon chips

½ part dried Rose (petals or small flower buds)

 

 

Directions:

  • Gather a quart size mason jar with lid.
  • Place about an ounce of the herb blend into the jar.
  • Fill jar with filtered or spring water.
  • Cover and place outside or on a windowsill overnight in an area that receives moon light.
  • Strain herbs and place tea in a new jar. Refrigerate until ready to drink. Drink within a couple of days.

Fireside Evenings Hot Toddy

Ready to expand your tea drinking?

On a whim this weekend, well really it was after a very disappointing Moscow Mule during dinner out, I decided to make a version of a hot toddy when we got home. A hot toddy is generally a combination of hot water, lemon, honey, and alcohol. Earlier this winter I was introduced to tea hot toddies at a happy hour but hadn’t made one at home.

Putting together this simple recipe I had two thoughts.

Why haven’t I made these already?

and

What else can I make using my teas?

The recipe below is how I created my Fireside Evenings Hot Toddy. Look for more recipes in the future that combine Leaf & Twig teas for more delicious ways to enjoy them.

 

Fireside Evenings Hot Toddy

1 heaping teaspoon Fireside Evenings Tea

1 cup Hot Water

1/2-3/4 shot of Honey

1/2-3/4 shot of Vodka (I used Tito’s)

  • Place Fireside Evenings Tea in a French press or tea strainer
  • Add 1 cup of hot water
  • Steep for 5 minutes
  • Stir in Honey and Vodka
  • Enjoy while hot

 

Herb Spotlight: Red Raspberry Leaf

One of quintessential herbs for women’s health, Red Raspberry Leaf, Rubus idaeus, has been used by since ancient Greece. This astringent herb is combined in Lady’s Herb tea with other herbs beneficial for a woman’s well-being. With the upcoming new moon and the moon relating to a woman’s cycle, it seems appropriate to talk about this herb.

Red Raspberry Leaf comes from a deciduous shrub that is found in the United States, Canada, Europe, Russia, and Asia. (1) The young new teas are the ones selected for herbal infusions and tisanes. (2) The leaves are lobed and sharp-toothedwith smooth surfaces on top along with white hairs on the bottom. (1)

People tend to turn to this herb for situations where a woman experiences excessive menstrual bleeding as well as menstrual cramps. Even though it is most commonly thought about for these situations, this herb is also used for gastrointestinal relief (Balch, 2012, p.120), lowering blood sugar (Balch, 2012, p.120), respiratory disorders (Medscape, 2016, Suggested Uses), and diarrhea (Johnson, Foster, Low Dog, & Kiefer, 2010, p.303). (3, 4, 5, 1) Some of the traditional uses for the herb are as a gargle for sore throats, using the boiled leaves to apply to wounds and skin ulcers, and the berries have been used as a laxative. (1)

Most commonly used as a uterine tonic, the herb’s fragarine and tannins tone and relax the pelvic and uterine muscles. (3) Several studies have been conducted in terms of women and labor with results showing consumption of red raspberry leaf can shorten labor. (6, 7) Check in with your doctor, midwife, doula, or herbal practitioner if you are pregnant as it can stimulate the uterus.

Resources:

  1. Johnson, Rebecca; Foster, Steven; Low Dog, Tieraona, M.D.; and Kiefer, David, M.D. National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs. National Geographic. 2010. p.301-303
  2. Liversidge, Cassie. Homegrown Tea. St. Martin’s Griffin, New York. 2014. p.82-87
  3. Gladstar, Rosemary. Herbal Healing for Women. Simon & Schuster. 1993. p.177, 253-254
  4. Balch, Phyllis, CNC. Prescription for Herbal Healing. 2nd edition. Avery. 2012. p.120-121
  5. Raspberry Leaf. Medscape. (Retrieved on March 20, 2016) Retrieved from: http://reference.medscape.com/drug/red-raspberry-rubus-idaeus-raspberry-leaf-344515#0
  6. Parsons, M., Simpson, M., Ponton, T. Raspberry Leaf and its Effect on Labour: Safety and Efficacy. Originally published in Aust Coll Midwives Inc Journal, 1999 Sept; 12(3):20-5. (Retrieved on March 16, 2016.) Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10754818
  7. Assessment Report on Rubus idaeus L., folium. European Medicines Agency. Published on January 28, 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Herbal_-_HMPC_assessment_report/2014/03/WC500163552.pdf

Behind the Scenes: Herbal Oils

Herbs are beautiful. I love blending them for my teas and tisanes. This winter I have been using them in oils. It is the easiest thing to make herbed oils. I wrote about how to make oils and what to use in a guest post recently. You can read it here.

My herbal oils are a way for me to play. Many of the herbs we enjoy in teas make great skin healing herbs as well. Lavender, chamomile, and calendula are the three I discuss in my guest post. I am also using Rose Buds and Lemon Balm.

It is so easy to get started! Purchase canning jars, the organic dried herbs of your choice, and oil. I use cold-pressed olive oil but many other oils are great to use too. How I prepare my oils: the dried herbs go into a canning jar with the oil and are sealed to sit on my sunny southern-facing windowsill to blend together. They set for anywhere from 4-8 weeks. This makes it easy as it takes five minutes to put it all together and then you do not have to do anything until it is time to strain the herbs from the oil.

I generally try to start my oils on either a new moon or a full moon. New moons are great times for going inward and resting. Full moons are a time of activity and bringing things to fruition. I base what benefits I want and the herbs themselves to determine if I start on a new or a full moon. Lavender, Chamomile, and Rose are great relaxing and rejuvenating herbs and I generally start my oils on the new moon when I use them.

Once I have my oils ready, I will use them as they are or turn them into lotions and salves. Oils make a great touch for after a hot shower or bath. You will want to use a small amount and really work it into your skin so you do not stain your clothes or slip as you walk.

Making lotions and salves are easy too and require a little extra time. The one I have pictured is calendula and lavender infused olive oils with shea butter and beeswax. It’s a gentle lotion I use on both my face and body to combat the winter dryness.

What are your favorite herbal oils to make? What do you enjoy about using herbal oils?