As the temperatures take a turn for the colder, I invariably turn to warmer drinks to ward off the chill. Though hot cocoa (especially this Red Velvet Cocoa) is a deliciously indulgent hot drink for the holidays, I find it a bit safer for my waste line and general health to sip on some tea.
Tea bags are great - all the work has been done for you, from the mixing of flavors to the prep work and clean up. And most days, I take the lazy route and grab a bag I've purchased from my favorite local coffee place where they carry Montana Gold teas (my personal favorite is Lemon Mint). But I've also found a great health food store in the past few years that carries nearly any health food product you could imagine, including the stuff to make my own tea. For anyone in the Baltimore, Gambrills, Forest Hill, or Columbia, MD area, you've got to head over to David's Natural Market. Though I've only been to the Columbia store and can't speak to the merchandise carried at the others, they've got everything from fresh organic produce to healthy snacks and desserts, earth-friendly beauty products, your typical health food store goods, and loose herbs and spices. I usually head straight to the back where I can find all the supplies for my teas sold in bulk (plus bulk nuts, granolas, grains, and more).
So these tea recipes are mostly based off of some of my favorite teas that I've bought and recreated, as well as some that were purely fashioned out of my own imagination. Once you find a place that carries all the various herbs, spices, and leaves you need, making the tea is pretty simple. If you have a reusable infuser for loose tea leaves, then you're set. If you can't get your hands on one (or don't feel like cleaning one out after nearly every use), then you can fashion a tea bag out of a coffee filter. Simply fold it in half and sew a square, leaving one side open to insert the leaves, then sew the final side shut after filling. Ta-da! An at-home tea bag featuring your own homemade tea!
There's definitely a lot of room for adaptation and variation when it comes to making tea. I love the essence of lavender, so I use lots of it in comparison to my other ingredients - if you don't like it so much, it is perfectly fine to lessen it's presence. Some people like really minty teas with peppermint or spearmint included in the mix, but I use just a hint for a subtle minty aftertaste. Feel free to experiment with these recipes and try out your own. It's really not too difficult if you know what you like and what you're going for. Warm teas with spicier flavors (think cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, etc.) are likely going to use a different blend than your chamomiles, herbal infusions, or mint teas. And then you can always simply add to pre-made teas. Say you've got some loose green tea leaves and want to add a citrusy component - some lemon peel included in the mix could be just the thing to enhance it. Using herbs grown in your own garden and dried in your very own oven make this gift even more personal and thoughtful too!
Don't be afraid to see what you can come up with. And if you create something delicious, please do share it with me! These also make great gifts, so sharing your creations with tea-loving friends is never a bad idea, especially when the holidays come around again. Plus, the leaves are so inexpensive that you can't afford not to give at-home tea-mixing a shot!