Have you seen what those fancy little bags of herbal 'tea' cost? Wow! As the weather gets colder, and the nights longer, I crave soothing cups of tea in the evening. But, the cost started to really add up. That's when I started noodling around with the idea of making my own custom blends. It seemed obvious - I could avoid the stuff I don't like (artificial flavorings) and get just the stuff I do like (I love Licorice Root!). Plus, given the quantities that can go through over a period of cold months, blending my own just makes a lot of sense economically.
You might think that it's complicated, and yet it isn't. Even in the beginning, without much to go on other than my own tastebuds and a few hunches, I got it right most of the time. And, it became a nice thing to give to friends and family.
Now, what the heck is a Tisane? First you need to know that 'tea' refers to the Camellia sinensis plant, found in tropical and subtropical locations. That's tea. But, what many of us casually refer to an 'herbal tea' is really a Tisane, or an infusion often from leaves, flowers, bark, roots, berries, seeds, stems, mosses and spices. That is a lot of territory. Tisanes are caffeine-free. In France, where I spend a lot of time, anything herbal in a 'tea bag' is referred to as a Tisane.
Don't stress too much about how much to use of any component. Make a small batch, say just a spoonful of this, and a spoonful (or less) of that. Brew. Taste. Adjust. I generally recommend brewing 1 tablespoon of your blended tea per 8 ounce cup of hot water. Let it steep for 5-10 minutes. If you like it stronger, use more tea and/or let it steep longer. It can also be nice to add a squeeze of fresh lemon or a bit of honey to your hot mug of delight. Oh, and I've also been known to add spices like peppercorns, fennel and such. You might prefer the scent of Lemon Balm to the citrusy taste of Lemon Verbena. If you need to know more about such differences, go to SPICEography.com.
Here are a couple ideas to get you started:
Late Night Tranquili-Tea
1 cup Chamomile flowers
¼ cup Lemon Verbena
2 tablespoons dried licorice root
1 tablespoon dried ginger root
1 tablespoon each dried orange and grapefruit peel
OPTIONAL: Dried Rose petals
Spicy Ginger Turmeric Tea
¼ cup dried turmeric
¼ cup dried ginger root
¼ cup each dried orange and grapefruit peel
½ cup Lemon Verbena
OPTIONAL: Hibiscus flowers, which are sweet/lemony and impart a nice rosy color.
Finally, you might wonder where to get these basic components for your teas. As you can see in this picture, I buy many of the dried components from Mountain Rose Herbs. But, you might find much of what you want locally, too. I source Egyptian Camomile from Salty-Savory-Sweet The Spice and Tea Shoppe right here in Reno, Nevada. Owner, Lindy, has many other interesting teas, herbals and spices that you will have fun with. Another place that I'd never have thought of looking for flavoring ingredients until recently is The Reno Homebrewer. I was in there the other day after a few items - I home brew Kombucha - and noticed their decent supply of flavoring components including dried herbs and spices. They don't list this stuff on their website but, trust me, they have it. It's worth it to slip in and take a look.
If you need additional inspiration, just look at the ingredients listed on a box of your favorite herbal tea blend! Oh, and one parting note: Don't prepare Tisanes in an aluminum pot. Aluminum is very 'reactive' and can produce odd flavors and even be bad for ya.