There’s more than one way to drink a cuppa – and in the depths of winter a sweet-scented flower tea can bring back the sunshine. Food writer Jassy Davis explains how to make your own floral tisanes…
Forget potpourri. The best thing to do with dried flowers is drink them. Tisanes – herbal infusions – have been warming cockles for thousands of years.
The idea isn’t that strange to us: a pot of mint tea after dinner, chamomile tea before bed. These infusions have stayed with us, while we ditched other more outlandish tisanes in favour of cups of good, strong black tea. But at this time of year, when the weather is grey and the days are dark, floral tisanes can breathe a bit of summer warmth back into our lives. And with flower beds being a bit sparse, a stock of dried edible flowers are perfect for brewing up with.
How to make a Tisane
The general rule is to use one heaped tablespoon of dried flowers for every 250ml water. Don’t use boiling water. The ideal temperature is around 80°C, so stop your kettle before it boils. Steep teas for three to five minutes before straining into a cup.
Important health and safety note: before you start brewing up, remember to only make teas with edible grade dried flowers, preferably organic. As tisanes have historically been used as herbal remedies, it’s best to check they won’t interfere with any medicines you’re taking or have an impact on any conditions you may have.
Jasmine tea normally means green, white or black tea scented with jasmine flowers, which has been prepared in China for thousands of years. A tisane of dried jasmine flowers is mellow and aromatic, less scented than an infusion made with the fresh flowers would be. Try combining jasmine with rose petals or a strip of fresh lemon or orange zest for extra fragrance.
Everyone who has had a piece of Turkish delight knows what rose tea tastes like. Fresh, dried or distilled into rosewater, rose always delivers that full, summer garden in bloom flavour.
Traditionally rose tea is drunk to help relieve menstrual cramps, and it’s also thought to be good for sore throats, digestion and stress. Rose is brilliant for scenting black tea. Try steeping a combination of dried rose petals, black tea and lightly crushed cardamom pods and serving it with a slice of lemon.
A love-it-or-loathe-it tisane. Lavender is a flavour that doesn’t give up. Dried or fresh, that heady, bee-and-butterfly-luring scent is just as strong. For some people, it’s too much like soap. But for lavender lovers, a cup of pale blue lavender tea is perfume heaven.
Lavender is always associated with sleep, which makes lavender the perfect night-time tisane. Combine it with chamomile blooms for extra snooziness. It’s also said to be good for digestion, so try it after a meal instead of mint tea (or mix a spoonful of dried lavender in with the mint sprigs).
The powdery smell of lacey elderflowers is the scent of spring. Elderflower tisanes capture that delicate, fruity fragrance. It’s naturally sweet and won’t become bitter if it’s left to stand, so you can confidently make a pot knowing the last cup will taste as good as the first (although be warned, it’s thought to be a diuretic, so perhaps don’t drink gallons of it).
Elderflower teas have historically been used to treat coughs and cold. Add a slice of lemon, a chunk of ginger and a dash of honey for a soothing drink when you need a little relief from a scratchy throat and runny nose.
Hop flower tisanes have a green note to them, redolent of thick stems of field rhubarb or orange skin. A rich, juicy bitterness that increases the longer you brew the tea for. Hops have long been used as a sedative and this tea is best kept for bedtimes. Try adding a strip of orange zest to round out the flavour, and honey to take the edge off the bitterness.
More commonly known as marigold, calendula petals have a peppery, tangy flavour that translates into a savoury tisane with a hint of spice and sourness. Thought to be good for digestion, cramps and menstrual pain, this sunshine yellow tea makes a great afternoon pick-me-up.
Freddie’s Flowers sends you delicious arrangements every week – though we recommend that you mostly just sit and look at our flowers rather than drink them. Sign up for a delivery box of amazing flowers for just £22 a pop here.
Jassy Davis is a writer and food blogger. Check out her wonderful Gin and Crumpets website here.