With the cold weather well upon us there are few things that warm me up as much as a hot cup of tea, especially when it’s enjoyed in front of a cozy fire. I LOVE tea! But despite my fondness of the hot beverage, we’ve lost touch until recently.

Up until a year ago green tea was my caffeine fix of choice. I’d start my morning with a scoop of Matcha in my breakfast smoothie, and then would have a cup or two of green tea during the day. I’d finish my day with a big mug of herbal tea after dinner. Not only did tea help give me extra energy when needed, it also helped me warn off cravings in the evening. I love tea so much I even have a cupboard dedicated to it. We really had a good thing going so it was a surprise when the two of us had to take a break.

I had been an avid tea drinker for years with no issues and thus didn’t suspect any connection between tea and my sudden headaches and nausea. The symptoms went on for weeks, started in the morning and stopped in the evening. Naturally morning sickness was one of my first suspicions and I decided to stop drinking tea because I had heard about its unknown effects during pregnancy. My symptoms immediately disappeared. I then tried a variety of brands and differnt kinds of tea hoping I could find a solution but all made the nausea return. It was evident that drinking tea was causing my symptoms and I needed to give it up. I would miss tea but couldn’t deny feeling better without it. I’ve since discovered many people also share my intolerance to tea.

A few months ago I decided to eliminate caffeine from my diet, a topic I’ll discuss in a later post. With the colder months approaching again I needed something to replace the new habit I adopted since cutting out tea – coffee. I decided to give caffeine-free herbal teas a second chance and have discovered several organic varieties that I can tolerate: ginger, red raspberry, nettle, camomile, fennel and mint. Since I had an abundance of mint left in the garden I decided to make my own homegrown mint tea.

 

 

There is something extremely satisfying knowing exactly where your food comes from and growing it yourself. The best part is mint is very easy to grow, maintain and harvest. Mint is great for digestion, is delicious in other drinks and recipes, and can soothe an upset stomach. Plus it smells amazing! Here’s how to grow and harvest mint to make your own mint tea:

Step 1: Planting Mint – The easiest way to plant mint is to purchase a plant that has already started and plant it directly in the pot. Mint can easily get out of control and this will prevent it from spreading all over your garden. Dig a whole in the soil large enough to fit the whole pot in and place the pot in the ground. Cover with soil and water generiously. Alternatively you can keep it in a pot and transfer it to a larger pot when needed. A good place to plant mint is in a location where it will get full morning sun and partial afternoon shade. I realize I am making this post in the Winter so it goes without saying that you can grow mint inside by following the same guidelines.

Step 2: Water and Maintenance – Water mint regularly every one to three days depending on temperature and dryness. When in doubt check to see if the soil is moist to avoid overwatering. As mentioned mint plants are pretty resilient but they prefer soils with a slightly acidic PH of 6.0 – 7.0 which is perfect for our garden. If you do not have favorable soil you can give the mint a little fertilizer every few weeks. This may sound tedious but I honestly did very little other than water my mint all summer and it turned out great!

Step 3: Trimming and Harvesting – You can enjoy fresh mint leaves (and perhaps Mojitos or Hali Mules) all summer by pinching off the leaves. We had 2 mint plants, one that we used regularly and the other I saved for drying. Either way you want to pinch off the buds before they bloom to keep the plant controlled. To harvest the whole plant wait until just before the flowers bloom and cut it off above the 1st or 2nd set of leaves closest to the ground. You can do this up to 3 times during the summer to promote a bushier growth and to start your drying process.

Step 4: Drying Mint – After you’ve harvested your mint, wash stems thoroughly and pat dry. Discard any brown leaves or stems. Bundle the stems together in a large bunch or two and wrap an elastic band tightly around the stems. Tie a piece of string around the elastic (or attach with a paperclip) and hang mint in a warm, dry place. Let dry for at least 2 weeks.

Step 5: Making  Tea Leaves – Once mint has dried carefully remove elastic and separate stems over a large bowl. Careful, this process can get messy! Crumble leaves over the bowl by rubbing them together between your hands. Discard stems. Once finished sort through leaves to make sure no pieces of stems have fallen in the bowl. Crumble leaves up more with your hands until finely ground. My mother-in-law uses a blender for this process which is another option. Store in an airtight container in a warm dry place.

Step 6: Mint Tea Recipe – Your finally ready to enjoy your first cup of hot mint tea! Measure out 1 – 1/2 tsp of dried tea leaves for every 8 – 12 oz cup of boiling water. Let tea steep for 3 – 5 min. Discard tea leaves, sip and take in all of your hard work.