Written by Felicity
A Guide To Herbal Infusions. Identifying the ones that taste good and do good.
What is a herbal Infusion?
Herbal infusions are sometimes known as herbal teas, but that can be a bit misleading. They are like teas, but they are not teas. Tea comes from the dried leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Herbal infusions never come from Camellia Sinensis, instead they are dried herbs, flowers, fruit and spices. Like tea though these herbal infusions can be infused in hot (or cold) water. Done well, they can be satisfying, flavourful and enjoyable to drink.
They are like teas in one other crucial way too: they’re not all created equal. Many of them blend lots of different ingredients – and, worse, contain artificial flavours to mask the poor quality of those ingredients.
To help you source the good stuff, I’ve put together a quick guide for identifying the herbal infusions that taste good and do good.
If you want your herbal infusion to taste good…
For the best taste experience, look for two things:
- Few ingredients – ideally just one. If the ingredients are good enough, they will stand up on their own.
- Intact and whole leaves, flowers, etc. If the ingredient is intact, it has been carefully handled and dried slowly. This means it will have retained more of its essential oil – which is what gives you the flavour and benefits when you add hot water.
If you want your herbal infusion to do you good…
Herbal infusions are naturally caffeine-free and have other benefits too. Just be careful about believing everything you read about the healing properties of certain drinks – science is still catching up with much of this research. What we do know is that peppermint and ginger are natural aids for digestion and chamomile has been drunk at bedtime for millennia because of its relaxant properties. Finally, because all infusions are mostly water, they are hydrating – which is, of course, good for us.
What are the health benefits of herbal Infusions?
There are many options out there. The best one for you comes down to what you want from your herbal infusion…
Want to relax with something fragrant and leafy?
Whole Rosebuds are clean, refreshing and soft – and nothing like the sweet rosewater you might know from cooking. These rosebuds have a leafy vegetal note that cuts through the fragrance. Being soft and relatively light they are good throughout the day, but I mostly enjoy them in the afternoon as they are soothing with clean, vegetal notes that keep me alert too.
Want to cool down with something intensely refreshing?
Peppermint – with its oily mid-palate, packs a strong menthol punch. It’s great after a meal and it takes away that full feeling as it gently aids your digestion.
Want something warming and zingy?
Try Lemongrass and Ginger. I did say just one ingredient is best, but here’s an example of a pairing that’s more than the sum of its parts – both ingredients are enhanced by the presence of the other. The ginger is warm and spicy; the lemongrass gives a refreshing zing. Try this as a post-lunch pick-me-up or on a cold day.
Want to relax with something mellow and soothing?
Want a caffeine-free alternative to English Breakfast?
Rooibos is sweet, honeyed and rich enough to add milk to. From the Cederberg Mountains in South Africa, these long red spear or needle like leaves have an earthy and vanilla like depth. I like mine made strong with a dash of milk in the afternoon.
Once you’ve made your choice, here’s how to get the best experience and flavour. For a simple, hot infusion:
- Pre-heat your teaware by adding boiling water to it; let it sit for 30 seconds then pour out.
- Add the recommended amount of herbal infusion to a pre-heated tea-iere or glass teapot. (Glass is best as it heats up quickly and cools at a nice, balanced rate – and you can also watch the infusion happen.)
- Smell the warm herbs in the teaware. The preheated glass will help to release the aromatics and fragrance, which can be just as enjoyable as the taste – not to be missed!
- Fill your teaware with boiling water. All our herbal infusions use hot water to draw out the maximum flavour without having to worry about any bitterness.
- Infuse for 3 minutes then pour out the full infusion into your favourite mug or cup. If you like it a little stronger, leave it for an extra 30 seconds.
- Re-infuse. You can re-infuse a herbal infusion as you would with any regular tea. Many, such as our Peppermint, can be re-infused 3 or 4 times.