My daughter-in-law, Jen, and I have attended two meetings recently in which a herbal producers’ co-operative is trying to get off the ground locally. Twenty-seven people met last Wednesday evening to learn how to apply the principles of a co-operative to the concept of producing herbs.
We’re looking at growing herbs as a possible cash crop for our farm as we look to the future. Both Jen and I had independently thought about focusing on herbs for tea, such as the chamomile shown, with the possibility of taking them to the value-added step of packaging the tea.
Some of the most popular tea ‘herbs’ are: Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Catnip, Rosemary, Peppermint, German Chamomile, Fever Few, Lavender, Lemon Grass, Marigold, Lemon Bergamot, Angelica, Anise, Rose Hips, and Fennel.
So here are the questions:
What herbal teas do you enjoy? Do you like simple tried-and-true flavors (such as straight chamomile) or do you like to try complex blends, with maybe some new flavors added in?
Why do you drink herbal tea? (Or why not!) Do you ever purchase tea based on the perceived medicinal qualities of the contents, or only for the flavor?
What have you always wished you could find, and why? What things should we consider as we look at the next steps?
Most of the people I know who are into herbal teas prefer to mix them themselves, and those like me who are not so great at actually gardening spend most of our time either foraging or buying bulk of what we need (I have a huge bag of Calendula –pot marigold –that I bought because I couldn't find it in loose leaf anywhere.) We use tons of mint, chamomile, calendula, fennel, rosehips, feverfew (though NOT as a tea– it is disgusting), mullein (ear aches), and lavender. Lavender tea is very tricky to find. We also use a lot of comfrey in making salves but have a hard time finding it because around here the law is you can't sell it as something that might be ingested. The other great thing to have is red raspberry leaf. We harvest our own but find that we use so much (good for female stuff/hormones/cramps– very calming) that we still end up buying a lot through out the year. Good blends to have are calming (chamomile, lavender, fennel, anise) and immune function (echinacea, calendula, rosehips, peppermint, feverfew, though as I said the fever few is disgusting). A good one for sore throats/teething is calendula, peppermint, with slippery elm added.
If you wanted to
Feverfew is easy to grow and could maybe winter there if it's covered. The tea (leaves and flowers) is bitter and would need to blended with something sweet, like Stevia, but it's awesome for getting rid of headaches. (Alternatively, the flowers and leaves can be dried, powdered, and encapsulated, making the bitterness a non-issue, but I don't know if there are laws there prohibiting that.)
I drink herbal teas for taste and medicinal purposes, and I usually blend my own because pre-packaged teas don't have enough medicinal herb to do much good. You have to drink several cups to get the full benefit.
I know I have more to say, but life is getting in the way and muddling my brain. I'll pop back by later when things are a little calmer.