Lettuce Eat Local: On Our Way To A Tea-Riffic Summer

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Amanda Miller
Columnist
Lettuce Eat Local

“Tea makes everything better,” states one of my favorite mugs. 

Somehow it seems like both a bold yet tender asseveration, one that fits when the day is hard and tea brings your spirits up and one that fits when the day is already good and tea solidifies the cheer — so characteristic of hot tea to meet you where you are. It can be a balm to gently soothe a soul just as well as a bomb to awaken and energize a body; you can be feeling any emotion from ennui to enthusiasm to exhaustion to elation, and tea is the correct beverage. 

I didn’t mean to start an ode to hot tea, just to say that I would be hard pressed to find an example where tea doesn’t make everything better, but once I get started it’s hard for me to stop. 

It may seem out of place to laud hot tea in a week when the forecast predicts temperatures in the upper 90s, yet I suggest if you can drink coffee all year long, you can drink tea all year long.

Now, I’m not saying tea is better than coffee. In fact, I would say the comparison can only result in logical inconclusions as it is a false dichotomy. Tea is not coffee, just as pebbles are not clams (illustration of two unrelated things provided by Brian). While there are some distinct similarities, they both serve their own purposes, and “never the twain shall meet.” They are both the right answer — you don’t have to pick between being a coffee person or a tea person. 

Though I have swung between preferences throughout my life, I am currently in a season of favoring both beverages. I am inappropriately condensing the categories of coffee and tea for the sake of simplicity, as there are a world of options contained within those simple words. In fact, some teas are more like coffee than they are a different type of tea, and vice versa: a strongly brewed Darjeeling is so different from, say, a delicate peach white tea, and a latte with lavender syrup shares a lot of notes with a milk-added lavender tea. 

Clearly, I could go on. But my actual point is, I’ll drink them all. 

Yet every year, as soon as my spearmint tea patch greens up in the spring, I am all about the mint tea. I wrote about it last year, because it was also true then — and the year before, and before that, etc. I have (no joke) probably a hundred tea options stashed in my cupboard, and I “need” those too, but we hit spring and summer and my body craves the bright, refreshing panacea that is fresh mint tea. Mint is hypothetically not the best choice for nursing moms as it could potentially reduce milk production, so I limit myself to every other day, which some days feels like a sacrifice. It’s just so good every time!

We are in the midst of four family reunions in a span of that many weeks, and I have found myself craving my mint tea blend more than usual. With all the coffee, snacks, and sitting around, my stomach needs the calming reset that the mintyness brings. I am typing this in the van on the way to a reunion, and yes, I made a pot of mint tea before we left (a pot of coffee, too!). 

And mint tea is the perfect summer beverage — drink a mug or two hot and fresh in the mornings before the cool has totally burned off, and ice the remainder for the ideally refreshing and hydrating afternoon beverage. When we lived in Kenya, they told us drinking hot chai (tea) in the sweltering afternoon would cool us off, which has not rung true for me yet, but take that garden mint tea and ice it and we have got ourselves a deal. 

See? Tea does make everything better. 

 

Tast-tea Mint & Tarragon Blend

I have a history of inadvisedly throwing random herbs into my tea (sage, good; cilantro, bad), and I am wisely holding off from picking any of my growing dill or basil to add to my morning tea kettle. However, I remembered one of my favorite packaged teas is a blend of peppermint, spearmint, and tarragon, and since my tarragon is flourishing, I tried making my own version — and now I’m hooked. The background flavor the tarragon adds is hard to describe (floral, licorice-y, grassy?), but whatever it is, I like it.

Prep tips: I find my homegrown tarragon isn’t nearly as strong as what I’ve gotten in the store, so I add plenty; adjust what amounts you use to suit your preferences. If you need a source, look me up!

1 quart water

6-10 hearty sprigs of mint, peppermint and/or spearmint

1-4 sprigs of tarragon

a pinch of stevia or local honey to taste

Bring water to a boil, and pour over the herbs which you have stuffed into your tea kettle (alternately, you can steep the tea in a large glass measuring cup). I like to add the sweetener directly to the pot before I pour in the water, and then just leave the mint in there as I pour out my tea throughout the day. Ice and enjoy any leftovers. 

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