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About Herbal Teas

Why can’t I have milk and sugar in my herbal tea?
The refreshing and stimulating effect of a ‘cuppa’ is part of our culture and probably, by now, part of our genome.

Most ‘Herbals’ will tell you that you need to drink the infusion without milk and maybe just a little honey, but for those of us who love a splash of milk to stop scalding the mouth and a little cane juice to really bring out the flavour, the experience of a straight herbal cup can be just a little deflating.

Literally, a tea is simply an infusion of plant material in water.
This method of extracting the beneficial properties from plants in a form that the body can quickly use, is so old that it is not worth guessing how it came about in the first place.
Every culture, that we are aware of, has used this method of consumption and the process is very stable.

So, a cup of tea, is an infusion of Camellia sinensis, usually pre-fermented for you by the manufactures of the many brands of Tea available.
A cup of herbal tea is an infusion of any or several of the thousands of herbs that are available to us.
So, to add an herb to a black tea is exactly the same as adding Nettle to Chamomile Tea.
What it really comes down to is a matter of taste, and of course, common sense. If the herb curdles the milk, refrain from adding it!

While most herbs will have some therapeutic value to the body and can be taken orally in tea form, many will actually combine with black or green tea beautifully and most can then have the splash of milk and a teaspoon of sugar if it is to your taste, without interfering with their own particular chemical action.

Some, and it is usually common sense, may curdle the milk, but very few will do this any more than black tea.

Over the years we have been experimenting with taste and action and have come up with some mixes that are particularly outstanding.

Our very favourite, daytime tea mix, is Ginger and Lemon Myrtle. We call it ‘Good Day Tea’
This combination with good quality black tea is so refreshing that you can literally feel yourself ‘regrouping’. One teaspoon of mix in pot is all that you need.

If life is stressful for long periods at a time, our best recuperative tea mix is Ashwagandha, Hawthorn and Licorice. These complimentary herbs support the adrenals and help you cope with exhaustion. We call this one ‘Stressless’.

Nettle, Cat’s Claw and Licorice combine beautifully to do battle with allergy and seasonal hay fever. Once again, only one teaspoon of mix for a pot of tea.

Berry Nice Tea is a mix of Shisandra and Hawthorn berry with just a hint of lemon to stop it being too sweet. This mix is excellent to regulate the blood pressure and banish depression. It is, by nature a very fruity tea so it is best in moderation and great in the afternoons.

If you have overindulged at the table and are either experiencing discomfort or you are pretty sure that you will do in an hour or so, then we have trialed and loved a tea mix of Meadowsweet, Astragalus and Peppermint.
All three of these herbs can be used individually but in combination they work even better.

Now Chamomile Tea has already attained a good reputation as a calming down tea, but it can be mixed very nicely with Siberian Ginseng and black tea to make a more complete mix for that dreadful feeling that accompanies either a heavy cold or period.

Cluster or persistent headaches can made more tolerable with a combination of Meadowsweet, Gingko and Ginger. Again, these herbs will combine with black tea but are often taken without.

To really settle things down to ensure a great nights sleep, we like to combine Ashwagandha, Passionflower and Verbascium. This mix requires the tannin in good black tea to lock it all together and deliver the required relaxation.

Licorice, Milk Thistle and Fennel are a fantastic combination for a soothing tea that is particularly friendly to the liver. They combine with milk in your black tea but sugar will probably be unnecessary.
This is a good, once a week tea that can highlight the weekend for your body.

Stimulant Teas are not usually as effective as a cup of caffeine but, in the case of the ‘Get up a Go’ mix the coffee comes in second best.
The mix consists of Siberian Ginseng, Licorice, Ginger and Black Pepper.
This is a tea to be reckoned with on any level and the aftertaste lingers for quite some time.

Another tea that we, as gardeners, find is absolutely welcome on Monday’s after a full bodied weekend of the not so gentle art of gardening, is our ‘CrampEase Tea’.
This wonderful combination of Crampbark, Anise and White Willow gets into those muscles that you didn’t know were there, and soothes them gently.
A cup for morning tea and another for afternoon tea brings your body back to the land of the living.

Now, all of the tea combinations that I have discussed, are simply ones that we have used for our own comfort and enjoyment but there are many more combinations that are possible and useful.
One major advantage that we have is that we actually grow all of the herbs that we use and can therefore feel very comfortable with the quality of the
herbs.
We grow in the open and harvest at the correct time.
We also know that the herbs are not adulterated in any way and that they are chopped and ground to the correct size to blend and be beneficial.

All of the herbs in the mixes that I have discussed are what you might call ‘mid-weight’ in that they do not have so profound an effect on the body that it could cause more problems than you started with.
While they all have a medicinal effect on our systems, they are not ‘medicine’ any more than are Brussel Sprouts.

If you are interested in sampling some of these mixes in the blend quantities that we use, then simply visit our website and purchase the mix in a small 50 gm pack.
This is usually enough mix for a 250 gm packet of tea but you must remember that these are real herbs and will need the teapot to brew.
We do not cram dust and shavings into a teabag for maximum convenience and minimal effect.

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Coffee 2. Processing your harvest.

Although there are many coffee species, most coffee is made from the seed or bean of either Coffea arabica (Arabica coffee) or Coffea canephora (Robusta coffee).
Arabica trees produce berries 8 to 15 mm in diameter, and Robusta produces berries approximately 10mm in diameter.
Pick the berries when they ripen to a bright deep red colour.

 The coffee or ‘green bean’ lies within the fruit and is surrounded by the parchment membrane, pulp or mucilage and outer skin.
I was very pleasantly surprised at the taste of the coffee berry fruit.
While only thin in comparison to the size of the berry itself, the fruit coating has a lovely fruity taste, similar to Miracle fruit.
Firstly, you need to remove the skin and pulp from the berry including any green (unripe) pulp and any black, dried or drying pulp (overripe).
You must do this within a day of picking the berries.
An effective way of doing this is to put your berries into a bucket with water and keep squashing the berries with your hands,
effectively tearing the skin and pulp away. Rinse and strain the mixture frequently. Good berries do not float.
Next, the berries need to ferment.

 

 

 

This breaks down the mucilage, which is the slimy film that you can feel around the actual seeds.
Let them sit for usually two days.
Take out a handful of seeds and wash them. If they no longer feel slippery then they are done. If they still hold onto the slippery film then put them back in the bucket and let them sit for another day.

 

 

 

 

 

Once the fermentation is complete you can rinse them and strain them at least two or three times until the water stays clear

Next comes the drying.
We prefer to dry in the shade instead of sun drying as it is slower and easier to control but most coffee sun dried as it is of commercial benefit to get them dry quickly. Spread them out as thinly as possible. You can use old picture frames with mesh tacked to it or even newspaper as long as you remember to stir the beans around at least three or four times a day.
Drying can take anywhere from a week to a month, depending on the climate. As long as they are stirred often they will dry evenly.
Test their dryness by touching the ‘parchment’ or the skin that still covers the seed. If it tears off easily and the seed ‘breaks’ when you bite it then they are dry.
If the seed is still soft enough not to snap, they need more time.
It is important to make sure that the beans are thoroughly dry as your next step is to store them away for two or more weeks. If any moisture remains in the beans, the chance of mould or mildew is enough to spoil the crop.
Store the beans in cans, bottles or, if you want the authentic look, hessian.
Your next step is the ‘hulling’ or removal of the parchment.
This is where technology comes in handy as the plastic blades in the food processor are fantastic for roughing off the parchment conveniently.
Only 30 to 40 seconds is necessary and then it’s time to use the hair dryer to blow away the debris.
There is still yet another skin on the seed, called the ‘silver skin’ but there is no need to remove this.
Then….The Roasting.
 Soon you will know without a doubt that you have grown great coffee.
Beans usually roast in around 12 minutes if spread thinly and stirred often. As they cook they shrink a little as the moisture is extracted. Then the process reverses as they cook and they begin to swell, the sugars caramelise, and the colour begins to change. The colour of the roast is up to you, but the darker the beans become, the stronger the flavour, and more caffeine is
cooked out of them. The lighter the roast, the stronger the caffeine hit.
When you decide they are ready take them out and cool them as quickly as possible as they will continue to cook inside the shell.
You do not need to use the oven as is quite possible to do them in the frying pan or even in a popcorn maker.