"Me time" may be a rare indulgence at this stage of your life, but that's no reason not to grab little moments here and there, as you can. Sometimes, just sitting down for a few minutes with a cup of tea amid the chaos of family life can steel you for the mom multitasking that awaits you.
Tea you make yourself is more flavorful than boxed varieties, and sipping a brew that you've made yourself, from start to finish, will make your tiny break feel sacrosanct. I've found that it's easier than it sounds, especially during summer: many outdoor summer gardens are amply stocked with the ingredients you need. Even if you don't have a lot of outdoor space, you can grow your own tea garden in a container. And if you aren’t a green thumb, you’ll easily find what you need at a local farmers market.
The next time you are in the tea aisle at your local market, take some time to check out all the ingredients in the teas offered there. Marie Hofer of Home and Garden Television notes that "you’ll find plants like lemongrass, spearmint, peppermint, rosehips and hibiscus. Can these be assembled in a garden? Absolutely. Most of these plants are ridiculously easy to grow.”
You Don't Need a Green ThumbI can attest to that. Look, I don’t have a green thumb. I have a death black hand. I’ve killed more live plants given to me for Mother’s Day than anyone else I know. But herbs, veggies and fruits – now they a fighting chance with me. And preparing warm concoctions from these ingredients is much simpler than I thought it would be.
To make herbal tea, use one tablespoon of the fresh leaves or flowers. (If you are reading this in the winter and have shut down your garden production and or have dried the leaves, then use just one teaspoon because the dried plant material is more potent.)
Next you want to add your choice of herb(s) to a tea ball or to a steeping tea cup that is resting in the mug or cup you intend to sip from. Adding a natural sweetener at this point allows it to mix efficiently with the herbs. Pour hot – but definitely not boiling water – in the mug and let the mixture steep for five minutes. To flavor, add honey, lemon or sugar.
What to PlantBut how do you know which herbs to use? Follow your taste buds, and experiement. Hofer offers some prudent advice to novice tea makers: “Caution: If you're not used to drinking fresh herbal teas, start slowly. Make sure you know the identity of the plant you're using to make tea, and be watchful for adverse reactions. Finally, don't use any leaves or flowers that have been treated with pesticides.”
ChamomileAccording to Planet Green, “Chamomile is known for its ability to soothe nerves, help you relax, and relieve stomach upset. The plants are very attractive, with tiny, daisy-like flowers covering the plants." Sounds pretty. It is. Mine are on the kitchen windowsill.
MintMint comes in many varieties: spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint and apple mint are all mentioned in the Planet Green article with a warning that mint is an invasive species and can “spread far and fast in a garden.” Best to plant it in a container to um, well, contain it.
ThymeThyme will help prepare your family for the coming cold season.“You may not think of thyme as an herb for tea, but if you suffer from frequent colds and sore throats, you might want to start. A tea made with 3 teaspoons fresh or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves does wonders for soothing a sore throat,” says Planet Green.
When to HarvestNow that you have some ideas on what to plant, the next logical question is when to harvest. Portland's newspaper, The Oregonian, recommends picking leaves for tea as soon "as the plant starts to get bushy." In the case of chamomile, which is made from the plants flowers rather than its leaves, it's best to harvest them "just before they are fully open.”
Perhaps the best advice you can find on growing your own herbs will come from folks in your local area who are doing it. Most states have what is known as the cooperative extension service. It isn’t just for professional farmers. This agency – usually supported by the state’s land grant university system – provides information and support to home gardeners and can connect you with locals who have achieved the service's “Master Gardener” certification.
How to Throw a Tea PartyNow that you have your tea, what you need to do is have a tea party. But don’t just sit and sip on the couch; make it a celebration with your kids of the accomplishment of making your own brew.
Head back out to your garden or local farmer’s market to get some additional supplies, and get inspired by these great ideas from fellow moms.
“I put cut flowers from the garden in my silver teapot to use as the centerpiece,” shares Circle of Moms member Susan W. “I made menu cards trimmed out in fuzzy yarn to sit at each place.”
Rebecca A. helped her girls (ages 9, 7, and 5) host a glamorous tea party for friends. She "bought some old prom dresses on sale for dress up, as well as dollar store makeup, crowns and fake nails and nail polish,” she shares.
And Keri made tea party hats for her kids by glue gunning ribbons and silk flowers to inexpensive straw hats she found at Hobby Lobby for $1 each. "They were absolutely adorable in their tea party hats,” she writes.
Tah-dah, you have a beautiful tea party sure to make memories and the pride of knowing that the drinks being served are ones that you made it yourself.