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Recommendation for a nicely tannic addition to my arsenal of herbal teas

 
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So here's the deal: in recent months I have shifted to teas (genuine and herbal) for almost all my beverage drinking.  This has been good for me because it's healthier, I feel, than any of the other beverages I was drinking previously.

At some point in any given day I shift over from true tea with caffeine to herbal teas.  The mix varies endlessly, but mint, chamomile, ginger, lemongrass, and hibiscus are staples. I'm also very fond of lemon thyme.   This growing season I am planning to grow more of all of these to "put by" for the winter, but one thing I've noticed is that when drinking herbal tea, I miss the tannic astringency of the black tea I drink at the start of the day.  I'm wondering what sort of herbal addition to my tea mixes I might make to give my herbal mixes just a little bit of that bitterness and tannic/astringent mouth feel for which cheap black tea is famous.  Does anybody have any suggestions for me?

My own searching has brought up the suggestion of blackberry leaves, which I could harvest in abundance from the feral blackberries that grow on this property.  (They aren't prolific fruit producers, having a very short season of production and tiny berries, but they are abundant.)  In truth I have tasted fresh blackberry leaves -- I am one of these people who is terrible and possibly unsafe about tasting just about all the growing things in my environment -- but they don't seem to have the desired properties. However, I haven't tried collecting, drying, and brewing them, so that's an experiment for this June.

Looking forward to seeing what ideas y'all may have.
 
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Acorns are full of tannic acid. What if you leach them and add a few drops of that acorn water to your teas? Or mix tiny bits among the herbs.
 
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i see persimmon mentioned in your signature. have you tried persimmon leaf tea? It has a bit of a tiny bitterness to it. It has some health benefits and so you should do your research before you start drinking buckets of it, but I like it and you may find it hits that tannic spot.
 
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a couple good suggestions so far! besides acorns, oak leaves have a decent amount of tannin in them…so do a fair number of other trees - though some also have other stuff you may not want. chestnuts are probably a good one. also grape leaves. anything that gets used in pickle-making to keep pickles crunchy longer…

and i don’t know how easy it is to get where you are, but i just recently realized that there’s a close relative of true tea that can be processed in the same ways but doesn’t have any caffeine at all. Camellia ptilophylla. i think medicinal teas are made with it that are available somewhere in the global marketplace. also called cocoa tea, just to keep the waters plenty muddy. i’m just starting some from seed now. admittedly, i don’t know if they will grow well where you are.
 
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While I don't know if it has tannins, I was going to recommend Yerba Mate as it has a nice taste and health benefits.

I am not a herbal tea drinker, like you, I miss the taste of black tea.  I really like Yerba Mate and it has health benefits.

This article mentions apple, witch hazel, and cranberry:

Have you ever bitten into an unripened apple and experienced an astringent (dry, puckery) feeling in your mouth? You have experienced tannins.



https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/ethnobotany/tannins.shtml
 
greg mosser
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another one i just remembered. a friend oxidizes fireweed to make a tea very similar to black tea. also no caffeine, but definitely somewhat tannic.
 
Dan Boone
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Thanks for all the good suggestions!  To clarify a little bit, I'm not looking for tannins specifically; I just have a suspicion they are responsible for some of the mouth feel and body that I enjoy in black tea, and I'm interested in suggestions for anything that would let me add some of that to my herbal tea mixtures, without adding the caffeine that black tea brings.

In a perfect world, I'd also like something with a long and well-documented history of routine human consumption; there are a ton of things people can eat but typically don't, or only for sporadic medical reasons.  Since I'm looking for something to add to my regular beverage routine, that might matter.

Tereza, I really like your persimmon leaf suggestion; that's an easy one for me to harvest wild right here on the property.  I will research health implications and experiment, thank you!

I'll be looking into everyone else's suggestions as well, thanks so much!
 
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While I don't know I'd say it has a particularly astringent mouth feel, I've noticed when I make Plantain tea (Plantago major or P. lanceolata, not the banana looking plants) that to me, it remarkably reminiscent of black tea. It's quite pleasant. Plantain is definitely safe to eat/drink regularly as well as medicinal, in a very nourishing gentle way. Plus, it is incredibly abundant most places.
 
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Red wine or red wine vinegar if you don’t want the booze?  Probably grape/muscadine juice as well.
 
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Dan Boone wrote:Thanks for all the good suggestions!  To clarify a little bit, I'm not looking for tannins specifically; I just have a suspicion they are responsible for some of the mouth feel and body that I enjoy in black tea, and I'm interested in suggestions for anything that would let me add some of that to my herbal tea mixtures, without adding the caffeine that black tea brings.

In a perfect world, I'd also like something with a long and well-documented history of routine human consumption; there are a ton of things people can eat but typically don't, or only for sporadic medical reasons.  Since I'm looking for something to add to my regular beverage routine, that might matter.

Tereza, I really like your persimmon leaf suggestion; that's an easy one for me to harvest wild right here on the property.  I will research health implications and experiment, thank you!

I'll be looking into everyone else's suggestions as well, thanks so much!



I drink Red Raspberry Leaf tea. It's drying, full of tannins, and is one of those things people can eat, and has been long-used as a tea. Usually women end up drinking it, because it can help "tone" the uterine muscles, making labor and periods easier. But, I don't see why men can't drink it too. As a diuretic, it'll help with bloating, and when I searched google, I saw advantages such as "Men can also benefit from raspberry leaf as it supports prostate health and has a toning effect for the whole male reproductive system. Raspberry tea is also wonderful, safe and gentle enough for kids (perhaps sweetened with a bit of honey.)" and "Red raspberry leaf has been recommended as a tonic to improve fat metabolism and encourage weight loss. It is often sold as a “detoxifying” supplement meant to improve body composition and overall health. However, a scientific study found no effects, neither harmful nor beneficial."
 
pollinator
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Sage makes a lovely tea, quite astringent but as far as tannins and similarity in taste this is what you are looking for (from strictly medicinal page):

New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus)

Family:  Buckthorn (Rhamnaceae)

Hardy to Zones 4 to 8
(Red Root) Perennial woody shrub native to the mountains of the Eastern US that bears showy, lilac-scented flowers of white.  Extremely tough, drought tolerant, and cold hardy.  Excellent permaculture plant, nitrogen fixer.  Tasty, noncaffeinated substitute for black tea.  Well-known and highly respected astringent and lymphatic.  This is the official species.  Full sun to light shade.  Dryish and/or depleted soils OK.
 
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Hi Dan,

first: I don't think it is "terrible" to try plants if you take care not to digest too much of an unknown plant. But herbalists (maybe even Kneipp, don't remember) used that method to try out possible medicinal herbs by taking a leave and keeping it on your tongue for some time to search for a reaction.

Regarding teas:
You wrote that you don't specifically look for tannines, anyway here are two I can think of. Spruce tips when they are young and a bright green in spring are used here to make a jelly or syrup. Quite adstringent. Then the seed pods of St. Johns wort. When you crush them they smell a bit like Iced tea (that's what I thought as a kid at least when that drink was not common at all in Germany).
Also the fruits of the European billberry are quite adstringent and often added to herbal teas.

In my case, I can't do without the caffeine in tea so I will stick to my "real" tea in the mornings!
 
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I drink Green Tea which has a very nice astringency

the key thing about it is to buy the good quality stuff, fortunately for me I live in one of the best places in the world for tea cultivation
 
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Almost any part of a tree used for tea would be high in tannins- small fresh leaves and twig bark of spice bush or sassafras, birch, pine needles. As the seasons change the leaves get bigger and unpalatable. Dried blackberry leaves are a good idea, as well as dried raspberry leaves. The longer you steep the brew, the more tannic it will taste. For a black tea-like substitute try dried mullein and dried bee balm. Also dry some young sassafras roots. Enjoy!
 
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Oregon grape root is pretty bitter and or astringent.  I would not want to drink it on its own, but as a small additive it might provide the missing element

Also quince juice in small amounts, and unripe persimmons.

Personally, I like bitter.  Dandelion greens are pretty bitter, and chicory leaf, the basal leaf , I’ve never tried the small leaves of later in the season, salad lettuce that doesn’t get harvested gets quite bitter, and the “weed” called mountain lettuce or prickly lettuce or wild lettuce.

And I seem to remember that the foliage of California poppies is bitter, which makes me think the garden poppies would be too.

I picture you switching around on what you add to your tea to get the missing element, and using small amounts.   I can’t offer any knowledge  on the safety of long term use of significant amounts of some of these.
 
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I used to drink a lot of black tea, but now stick to mostly green tea in the morning, and herbal teas in the afternoon.

Gunpowder green tea has a similar flavor profile to a black tea. Adagio tea has a good one that is reasonably priced.

Stinging nettle is my favorite non-tea. It isn't anything like black tea, but it's very robust in a good way. Also mixes well with other flavors like mint.

I also buy culinary bergamot oil (a type of citrus fruit) to make my  non-caffeinated teas into something a lot more like earl grey tea. Though not related, the the herb bergamot (or bee balm) is supposed to taste quite similar as a tea. It is even supposed to have a similar silky mouth feel. I haven't yet tried it myself, but plan to sometime soon.

Both stinging nettle and bergamot are considered medicinal, so you may not want to drink too much of either
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Meadowsweet is very bitter.

I grew cardoon last summer, relative to artichoke, you eat the midrib of the leaf.  it was also quite bitter.  
 
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For a bit of astringency, you might try sage, rose petals, or chamomile. They all have their own big health benefits, too.
 
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I'm not sure if this will do it for you, but I really love nettles tea especially as a cold tea.  It really hits the spot for me.  It is crazy how different the dried leaf tea tastes from the cooked fresh leaves (which taste like spinach).  I just gather the whole plants (except the root) and tie them up to dry.  I then pull the leaves off the stem and store.  They don't sting really after they dry.  They do, however, create this "nervy" sensation on your hands if you are processing a lot.  You can also gather them after they are large and mature when you are using them for tea as the fiber won't bother you.  I also second raspberry leaf which has been mentioned.  A little dandelion could also be thrown into a mix.  

Those both have long histories of daily consumption.  
 
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I second the recommendation of dandelions - but the roasted root, not the leaves - for that tea-like astringent flavor. Some folks like roasted chicory root for a similar bitterness. And while these are often touted as coffee substitutes, in my mind they are more similar to tea, than coffee.

As an aside, I was buying a "caramel" tea of roasted dandelion roots, stevia, and caramel flavor, but found I could make the same with less packaging with my own homemade or bulk purchased dandelion root and some toffee or caramel flavored liquid stevia. Yum!

I've been wanting to try blackberry leaves myself. What Nicole described about raspberries leaves I've found to be very true as well, though in people who are prone to constipation (which can be common in pregnant women!) raspberry leaves are not always great because then can cause or exacerbate constipation.

Another leaf I want to learn more about is mulberry leaf. I saw some in a store that was touted as a weight loss tea, but I don't know much about it. If it's drying or astringent, or has that tea-like taste, that would work for me, too! I have a glorious mulberry tree just outside my door, so I think *this* spring/summer is when I'll harvest some leaves to dry. (I've lived here less than two years and haven't tried everything this property has to offer yet!)

The other herb that might not have been mentioned is rosemary. I love the flavor and the mental clarity boosting effect of just the scent, so I'm thinking that could be a happy thing in a tea blend - maybe rosemary, tulsi (aka holy basil), and nettle.  Might add blackberry leaf, and/or mulberry leaf and see what works for my taste.

Oh, right - tulsi! Have you tried that one? Currently I prefer its flavor in a blend with other herbs, not all on its own.

My experience with Oregon grape root is that I must not like bitter as much as Thekla does! :-D When I've used it in an immune enhancing tea blend, I've had to add a lot of rose hips, mint, lemon, cinnamon, etc. and maybe even add honey (for extra picky tea drinkers!) to help the bitter go down from that root!

Would love to hear what you gravitate towards, Dan.

 
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Hi all!

I have been lurking around for a while but this thread hit my buttons. I think you will find very useful information about herbal teas and tisanes in the field of classical Chinese medicine. It essentially is a 5000+ years statistical analysis of what herbs do to the body. Ample resources are available on the web for a huge number of plants and animal products.

For example:

Mint
https://www.americandragon.com/Individualherbsupdate/BoHe.html
https://tcmwiki.com/wiki/bo-he

Chrysanthemum flowers
https://www.americandragon.com/Individualherbsupdate/YeJuHua.html
https://tcmwiki.com/wiki/ju-hua

Dandelion
https://www.americandragon.com/Individualherbsupdate/PuGongYing.html
https://tcmwiki.com/wiki/pu-gong-ying

Ginger (fresh)
https://tcmwiki.com/wiki/ginger

Ginger (dried)
https://www.americandragon.com/Individualherbsupdate/GanJiang.html

the list goes on and on.

A word of caution: Whatever is powerful enough to help you can also hurt you if not used correctly. The most important information for every herb is the "properties", namely their nature which means roughly temperature effect on the body and their flavor, which does different things for each taste. Something classed as a cool or cold herb like mint will noticeably cool of the body while a hot herb like dried ginger will heat it up. Obviously if you are suffering from heat flashes and can't be cool, don't drink a lot of hot herbs, it won't help, whereas a cup of mint or chrysanthemum might help you vent this out and cool down a bit. Similarly if you feel cold and dislike winter, a cup of mint tea, green tea or chrysanthemum will likely upset your stomach, make you shiver or have cold feet and hands, while ginger or jujube dates will help you stay warm. Trust your senses and your body when you try herbs and ignore statistics about chemical components, antioxidants and the like which more often than not are a marketing scheme based on some statistics for a very limited number of patients or even worse a petri dish collection. And since we don't know if we are on the 40% of that study or related to that petri dish there are better ways to judge what is right for us.I have attached a very nice article, albeit a bit technical for the non initiated, explaining the classical way of evaluating herbs for their effects.

That's it for my first rant, I hope you find the information useful


Filename: Returning-Our-Focus-to-the-Flavour-and-Nature-of-Herbs.pdf
Description: Herbal teas explanation
File size: 339 Kbytes
 
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All herbal teas will have different medicinal actions over various periods of time, but you might enjoy a combination of dandelion leaves and red raspberry leaves.

They both have bitter flavours and astringent actions, and it's rare for them to cause negative side effects. Just prepare to pee a lot more as they're both diuretics.
 
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I see blackberry leaves, fireweed, and spruce tips have all been suggested. I totally agree.
I have used and enjoyed them all. Blackberry leaves are quite different dried, and make a very reasonable tea substitute in terms of mouth feel and astringency. I think they are the closest to camellia sinensis that I have tried. Add milk and sugar if you like it that way. Used for time out of mind. Raspberry leaves are similar, I don't notice much difference between the two, and use them both.
Fireweed makes another dark, "tea-ish" infusion. And you can bruise it and ferment it like traditional oolong and black teas if you like. I have done so. It's labor intensive but kinda fun and good hand exercise. Traditionally used in Russia and the Pacific Northwest, so also time honored.
Spruce tips are quite lovely, but more different from traditional tea. Aromatic, good for clearing the lungs. Still somewhat astringent.
I have never tried New Jersey Tea or Labrador Tea, but the names are indicative of traditional use.
 
Ellen Lewis
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Yerba Mate is not appropriate if you are looking for non-caffeinated tea. It has about the same amount of caffeine as camellia sinensis tea. Nor does green tea have less caffeine than black, unless it's just that you don't steep it as long. It's the same plant handled a different way.
 
Ellen Lewis
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I think the leaves of all camellias make a reasonable tea substitute, in terms of taste, if processed the same way. And I don't think most of them have caffeine, but when I used to make them I was totally off caffeine, so I was afraid to try enough quantity for a conclusive answer.
 
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Tea mixes are somewhat (I think) very personal choices.
Mine contain variety of organically grown/wild mixes/DIY cordials/syrups etc.  depending on seasons, and what I may feel like
Some, I cannot grow due to climate: citrus (I dehydrate slices).
I may add 1 Tbs of cordial I made and aged from my black currant or gooseberry, or wild blueberries fruits.
I may mix dried leaves/flowers in the amount that pleases my palate.
Or, I may add some to already bought teabag of Twinning Earl Gray.
The beauty of self mixes are finding what one likes, make notes, record as recipes and enjoy
I know some people who don't like mint while I do!
What one makes, is what one enjoys.
Have fun
Cordials-from-my-garden-dried-wild-fruit-levaes-lemons-etc.JPG
Picture of some of my dried ingredients for tea mixes
Picture of some of my dried ingredients for tea mixes
 
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Chicory root is tannic and bitter similar to dandelion root. I have an herbal coffee that I like with it.
 
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One of the main drivers of bitterness  is oxalic acid.  There are wild plants that are extremely dangerously high, and one can actually consume if unaware, a deadly level.  Rhubarb leaves are the commonly known one to avoid, but many others if consumed, say daily, in a tea would not be good.    So for those that live with gout, arthritis,  kidney stones, or any of the other high oxalate symptoms please be sure to question your daily tea, weed consumption, or regular foods in general.  Finding this out changed the health of my wife and I in a big way.  And neither of us had the more common symptoms.  One can have their levels tested using an Organic Acids Test.    
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Ryan Carson wrote:One of the main drivers of bitterness  is oxalic acid.  There are wild plants that are extremely dangerously high, and one can actually consume if unaware, a deadly level.  Rhubarb leaves are the commonly known one to avoid, but many others if consumed, say daily, in a tea would not be good.    So for those that live with gout, arthritis,  kidney stones, or any of the other high oxalate symptoms please be sure to question your daily tea, weed consumption, or regular foods in general.  Finding this out changed the health of my wife and I in a big way.  And neither of us had the more common symptoms.  One can have their levels tested using an Organic Acids Test.    



That is a fascinating point to consider. Though I have heard that cooking destroys oxalates, and a quickie search confirms that might be true. But certainly, any good thing can be over done, so it's certainly important to keep in mind.
 
Stacy Witscher
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In my experience, what one perceives as bitter varies. Generally speaking I don't like bitter, but it's only certain foods that I perceive as bitter. I don't like beer (hops) or strong coffee, and most bitter greens. But I love very dark chocolate (86% cacao), it just tastes more chocolately to me. I don't find spinach or brassicas to be bitter at all. As a child I would chew on a member of the oxalis family that we called sour flower, it wasn't bitter at all just sour like sorrel, in fact the lower growing kind is also called wood sorrel, we called it sour grass.

In my research, bitter is more complex than sweet. An interesting subject. And then tannic is different as well.

The herbal coffee that I buy is now called Forest from Mountain Rose Herbs, to that I add chicory root and extra cinnamon chips. It's lovely.
 
Glenn Ingram
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One of the main drivers of bitterness  is oxalic acid.  There are wild plants that are extremely dangerously high, and one can actually consume if unaware, a deadly level.  Rhubarb leaves are the commonly known one to avoid, but many others if consumed, say daily, in a tea would not be good.    So for those that live with gout, arthritis,  kidney stones, or any of the other high oxalate symptoms please be sure to question your daily tea, weed consumption, or regular foods in general.  Finding this out changed the health of my wife and I in a big way.  And neither of us had the more common symptoms.  One can have their levels tested using an Organic Acids Test.  



The above statement about the consequences of too many oxalates are absolutely true.  However, oxalic acid has a sour taste (as most acids do) which is why rhubarb, wood sorrel, and other high oxalate plants are sour.  There are high oxalate plants that are not very sour but that is because their taste is overwhelmed by other constituents in the plant (often bitter).  Many many constituents in plants are bitter; it's one of the most common flavors in plants.  Many bitter things are poisonous, most are extremely healthful.  Cooking does break down oxalates but it can still be an issue if you are drinking a lot of tea of a really high oxalate plant all the time and your body is particularly sensitive to oxalates.  

My point is it is a risk to be aware of, but it shouldn't scare you away from herbal teas.  The plants discussed so far do not have a lot of oxalates and have a long history of daily consumption improving people's health in a variety of ways depending on what the plant is.  In fact, many of the plants discussed are diuretics that would help flush oxalates out of your system.  

There is no way you can taste a plant and judge it's exact constituents.  There are just too many constituents with similar tastes.  You can get in the ballpark if you are really good, but most of us are not.  It is much more common to go the other way; people look at chemical analyses of plants and then figure out what is causing the taste.  That is how people can learn to get in the ballpark when tasting herbs.  
 
Dan Boone
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I got busy and didn't check this thread for a few days. So many great suggestions!  I can only respond to a few of them, but thank you all.

Nicole Alderman wrote:I drink Red Raspberry Leaf tea. It's drying, full of tannins, and is one of those things people can eat, and has been long-used as a tea. Usually women end up drinking it, because it can help "tone" the uterine muscles, making labor and periods easier. But, I don't see why men can't drink it too. As a diuretic, it'll help with bloating, and...



I am definitely going to try Raspberry, it sounds very copacetic with the herbal mixes I am already using.

Cris Fellows wrote:As far as tannins and similarity in taste this is what you are looking for:

New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus)

Family:  Buckthorn (Rhamnaceae)

Hardy to Zones 4 to 8

(Red Root) Perennial woody shrub native to the mountains of the Eastern US that bears showy, lilac-scented flowers of white.  Extremely tough, drought tolerant, and cold hardy.  Excellent permaculture plant, nitrogen fixer.  Tasty, noncaffeinated substitute for black tea.  Well-known and highly respected astringent and lymphatic.  This is the official species.  Full sun to light shade.  Dryish and/or depleted soils OK.



Chris, this looks very promising, and I think (?) it's one of the "random weeds" that grow on this property.  I'll have to do some careful plant ID work when/if I see it again.  

Rick English wrote:
I also buy culinary bergamot oil (a type of citrus fruit) to make my  non-caffeinated teas into something a lot more like earl grey tea. Though not related, the the herb bergamot (or bee balm) is supposed to taste quite similar as a tea. It is even supposed to have a similar silky mouth feel. I haven't yet tried it myself, but plan to sometime soon.



Rick, are you talking about Monarda fistulosa? A long time ago I bought some seed from Prairie Moon, planted it, waited for it to flower, and tasted it. I can confirm that it tastes exactly like the genuine bergamot oil in Earl Grey teas.  I'm not actually the best fan of that particular flavor, but here's the funny thing: once you grow a flower, you know it. And about ten days later I was out driving on country roads and I realized I was looking at a huge drift of the same flowers, running from the road to the fence and for about a hundred feet along the fence.  Made me feel silly for having spent good money on seed!  But the takeaway is that I can find that stuff easily here now, and it might be that I like it better in a blend than I suspect, so I'll have to keep my eyes open this summer and grab a bunch.

A bunch of people have suggested sage.  I grow culinary sage but never thought to try it in tea.  Leaves, or flowers?

Jocelyn Campbell wrote:
I've been wanting to try blackberry leaves myself. What Nicole described about raspberries leaves I've found to be very true as well, though in people who are prone to constipation (which can be common in pregnant women!) raspberry leaves are not always great because then can cause or exacerbate constipation.

Another leaf I want to learn more about is mulberry leaf. I saw some in a store that was touted as a weight loss tea, but I don't know much about it. If it's drying or astringent, or has that tea-like taste, that would work for me, too! I have a glorious mulberry tree just outside my door, so I think *this* spring/summer is when I'll harvest some leaves to dry. (I've lived here less than two years and haven't tried everything this property has to offer yet!)

The other herb that might not have been mentioned is rosemary. I love the flavor and the mental clarity boosting effect of just the scent, so I'm thinking that could be a happy thing in a tea blend - maybe rosemary, tulsi (aka holy basil), and nettle.  Might add blackberry leaf, and/or mulberry leaf and see what works for my taste.

Oh, right - tulsi! Have you tried that one? Currently I prefer its flavor in a blend with other herbs, not all on its own.



Jocelyn, I am slightly crosswise to a lot of folks' current notions of healthy eating these days, being largely in the "whole plant foods" camp and eating principally legumes, whole grains, root vegetables, and fruit.   Whatever the merits and demerits of eating that way, once thing I don't have to worry about is getting enough fiber for regularity!

As for mulberry leaves, I have several different kinds of mulberry trees on the property, and I have tasted the green leaves, but they didn't really suggest much character to me from casual munching.  My little stand of invasive Paper Mulberries has fuzzy leaves that are unpalatable, and the wild ones (probably Morus rubra) just taste like leaves.  I haven't tried drying any.  I do understand that in the lands where silkworms are grown, there's a history of humans eating the leaves as a starvation food.  

Rosemary strikes me as very resinous, much like the spruce tips people would drink for the vitamin c content up in the boreal forest where I grew up.  I like a tiny bit in cooking, not sure how much I would like it in tea.  May have to try it.

Nettle doesn't grow well here, at least not when I try it.  I haven't pushed too hard because it is supposedly native here but I don't know if other people who use this property would thank me if it escaped across the landscape in a place where it's not currently found.

Tulsi is just a word to me; I'm not sure if I've ever seen/encountered it.  Seen it in seed catalogs, I thought it was just a fancy-growing basil?  How different is it in character from culinary basils I already know?

Ellen Lewis wrote:I see blackberry leaves, fireweed, and spruce tips have all been suggested. I totally agree.
I have used and enjoyed them all. Blackberry leaves are quite different dried, and make a very reasonable tea substitute in terms of mouth feel and astringency. I think they are the closest to camellia sinensis that I have tried. Add milk and sugar if you like it that way. Used for time out of mind. Raspberry leaves are similar, I don't notice much difference between the two, and use them both.

Fireweed makes another dark, "tea-ish" infusion. And you can bruise it and ferment it like traditional oolong and black teas if you like. I have done so. It's labor intensive but kinda fun and good hand exercise. Traditionally used in Russia and the Pacific Northwest, so also time honored.

Spruce tips are quite lovely, but more different from traditional tea. Aromatic, good for clearing the lungs. Still somewhat astringent.
I have never tried New Jersey Tea or Labrador Tea, but the names are indicative of traditional use.



Ellen, this made me smile, because I grew up along the Yukon river, in a spruce forest, surrounded by fireweed and labrador tea shrubs.  When we would collect snow to melt for bath night, the two contaminants that were a challenge to avoid getting in the melting pots were labrador tea leaves and snowshoe hare "pellets" -- my sisters didn't like either one in their hair-washing water.  Spruce tips I do not like the flavor of, although they are very citrusy to go with their resinous quality; labrador tea I do enjoy munching on, although we never made tea with it.  Fireweed shoots we ate raw in salads, but nobody we knew used it in teas.  I appreciate you reminding me of these flavors of my youth!

That's all for me for right now, thanks again to everyone.





 
Carla Burke
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Sage - flowers, leaves, or both.

Tulsi aka holy basil. Great adaptogen, and part of my daily tea intake. My favorite varieties are Rama and vana. Krishna is a little medicinal tasting, for me. There are others, too.
 
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I've been clearing out my saved magazine cuttings and came across something that made me remember this thread. I don't think anyone has suggested blackcurrant leaves yet. According to Lucy Halsall in my Kitchen Garden Magazine of June 2005:

"Blackcurrant leaves are high in tannins, and it is probably for this reason that they were used as a substitute or bulking agent for Indian and China teas in the 18th and 19th centuries, when tea shortage were commonplace."


They do have a very distinctive fragrance and I could see this working well as a tea.
 
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