Top ways to brew our NIH homegrown herbal teas - for maximum taste and health boost

Updated: Apr 18



Multiple ways. No answer is right or wrong- if you enjoy the end result!


Hmmm.. I must mention though, a certain extraction method may extract more flavour, nutrients and active herbal constituents over another, it depends... so how do you know?


See the answers come with intuition and experience and obviously learning some knowledge about herbalism, so here are some tidbits I have learned along the way...



Top ways to brew our NIH homegrown herbal teas - for maximum taste and health boost.





To start.


I like my tea (and coffee, and drinks in general) STRONG, with a kick!


I am mentioning this because some people like light tea, so in that case, adjust these tips to to your preferences once you get going.






Favourite tools:

  • French Press- great for quick & overnight steeps.

  • Mesh strainer (ball or scoop).

  • Tea pot with fitted strainer.

  • Favourite mugs that fit with strainers.

  • Cast iron tea pot that you can put right on the stove for low and slow brewing.





The Methods:

THE STEEP / Infusion

  • The method: Boil water, allow for it to rest and then pour over dried plants. Steep covered for 3-5 minutes at least.


  • How long? 3-5 minutes AT LEAST. I recommend this and it says so on our labels. Longer steeping periods will bring out more herbal compounds, more robust flavour but also commonly a bitter tannin undertone, so some people may not like this. 15+ minutes of steeping is widely used by herbalists to extract more beneficial plant constituents. I commonly like to steep my teas overnight and then re-heat them in the morning.


An overnight steep can be a great way to soften roots and plant matter, so opening the door to multiple steeps being more flavourful.


  • With strainer or without? Allowing the herb to swirl around in the pot or mug can release more flavour and get more out of the plant. However in the end you will need a strainer to separate the tea from the herb. A french press is an excellent choice to allow space for the herb and get a strainer benefit all-in-one.


  • How hot is the water? Boil water and then let it rest until the water is no longer rapidly boiling. Roots and tougher plant matter, especially pieces with oil compounds and resin can take much higher temperatures and for longer periods of time to release all the good stuff- these types of plants are better extracted using the method discussed below: the decoction- or a combination of both!


  • Which teas are best? Simple steeping methods are best used with teas that are comprised of leaves, thin stems, flowers and softer plant matter. These are quickly extracted without the need for too much heat or movement.




THE DECOCTION

This method is a bit more effort, however if you have the time and heartier ingredients, it is totally worth it!


  • The method: bring a pot of water to boil on the stove. Reduce to simmer. Add your tea, soft simmer for 5-15 minutes. Strain & serve.


If you are really into getting the most out of your plants, I would highly recommend doing an overnight steep (or soak phase) even before the decoction process. It's an extra step and not necessary, but does pre-soften the fibres so more flavour is extracted.


  • How long? I refer to any herbal extraction on the stove as a decoction- so in my day-to-day life, I usually simmer the herbs for about 5-10 minutes.

The true decoction process goes as follows: simmer herbal blends on the stove uncovered for about 1 hour. In that time the water is to reduce to about one half, concentrating the tea. This is similar to the process of making a stock on the stove, which we elaborate more on in our blog here.


I value the low and slow process of the true decoction, however primarily do so when I am making big batches of tea. Perhaps we scout out a big batch (4L) of tea in our household at the onset of a herbal detox (cleanse) at the change of seasons, if there is an ailment to revise or a sickness in the family.





Otherwise I tend to stick with the 5-10 minute simmer on the stove as for a quick decoction, which I frequently find time for because I love our Mega Chai! I also love brewing spicy ginger root tea with lots of honey for really cold days working outside.


  • Milk or without milk? Your choice really. Black tea bases and toasted roots taste really nice with milk. In our shop my favourite is our Chai, which is a spiced tea blend with adaptogens and toasted roots. After the tea has extracted, simmering for at least 5 minutes with just water, add your milk. Once you do, control the temperature to ensure the milk does not burn, then simmer for longer until it is well combined and the milk smells sweet and with a herbal undertone, in the case of chai, SPICY.


  • Which teas are best? Stove top decoctions are best suited for heartier plant matter, such as woodier stems, roots, spices, barks, mushrooms. These types of plants contain oil compounds that need to be released with higher temperatures and over a period of time. Some are even extracted more with the addition of oil- such as by adding milk, like in the case of a chai decoction.


What about if my herbal blend has soft plant matter and woodier roots?


  • Longer steep at a lower temperature. Here I would recommend a longer steep, so 15+ but at a lower temperature to not harm the delicate plants. So perhaps never bringing the mixture to a rolling simmer but still applying heat for long enough to extract from the tough stuff. In this case I lazy-out and choose the overnight steep so I can just pour tea before I go to bed and then let my sleep do all the work!


  • Cast iron tea pot. These are really popular now and you can even find them at department stores and tea specialty stores. To brew via a cast iron: add the tea into the pot with water, loose or with a strainer, your choice, I usually use a strainer. Then, control the temperature of the pot on low/medium heat so it rises in temperature over a longer period of time, compared to just bringing the pot to boil on high heat. It is also beneficial because then you can reheat the tea if you don't drink it all at once.




Herbal Tea Benefit


There are nutrients in a delicate sip of herbal tea, including the common vitamins, minerals and amino acids we see listed on our nutrient guides.