I became a tea drinker in high school, when Lola and I started having regular tea parties. Lola is my late Grandma Walker's best friend, an incredibly wise and loving woman, and one still full of spunk in her late 80s. Whenever I would come home from college, and still when I visit home now, I am sure to schedule a tea party with her, especially over Christmastime when we read A Cup of Christmas Tea and drink from a special Christmas tea set. There's a lot to say about Lola, who deserves a blog post, if not a book, all her own; but for the purpose of this post, I'll just say it was she who introduced me to tea.
Since my tea tradition with Lola, I've made many other memories over a cup of tea. One of my favorite things in the whole world is to sit with a friend and chat over a steaming cup - a simple, but always deeply gratifying time. From tea parties with my niece to sipping tea with Bedouin men in Jordanian desert, I have many memories made over hot water and herbs.
And now,. Since starting my herb garden, I have tea almost every day, either with my breakfast or in the evening after getting home from work. I'll grab my herb basket and scissors, head out to my front porch, and take trimmings of whatever is available for an herbal blend - usually a lemon-mint-lavender combination made with lemon grass, lemon balm, peppermint, spearmint, and lavender leaves. I bring my trimmings inside, rinse them off, then pluck the leaves from the stems and place them in my french press. I take a pestle and grind up the leaves a bit to release the aroma, then pour boiling water over them and allow them to steep for a few minutes. If I want to sweeten my tea naturally, I'll add some dried stevia leaves and for a stronger drink, I'll use dried herbs.
Each herb has it's own list of health benefits and properties, but most of them can help you sleep, aid digestion, relieve headaches and menstrual cramps, lower blood pressure, and brightening skin.
I've since experimented with a few different blends from my own herbs and from other spices. Here are some of my favorites:
Hibiscus and cinnamon tea, which I also like to chill and drink as an iced tea. Hibiscus is known to lower blood pressure and is also a great source of antioxidants while cinnamon packed with health benefits. It is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties, as well as its ability to fight viruses like colds and flu and fight infections like candida. It's also has lots of antioxidants, improves circulation, reduces aches and pains from arthritis, and even helps in weight-loss. When in Jordan, my friend's mother made me cinnamon tea to help ease my menstrual cramps.
Black tea with mint, the standard tea offered throughout the Middle East to guests.
"Bedouin" tea with black tea, sage leaves, cardamom pods, a cinnamon stick, and fresh thyme leaves.
Lemongrass and orange zest. Lemongrass tea is a popular choice in Ugandan villages and may be served to you upon a visit to our girls' leadership academy.
Ginger and honey, a favorite choice of my husband's, which he makes each morning to aid in digestion.
Friends in Uganda -
Although hibiscus flowers are everywhere and it's easy to dry your own, you can also buy dried hibiscus leaves in Owino market or the Prunes' Saturday farmers' market. Cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods can also be found at Owino or at most supermarkets.