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preserving

Food & Drink, Summer

How To Make Lemon Balm Tea – Two Ways

Want to know how to make deliciously refreshing lemon balm tea? You’re in luck – it’s one of my favourite beverages! Here’s how to make it with fresh leaves, and how to make lemon balm tea from dried leaves. Enjoy!

Lemon balm grows in abundance in my garden. I absolutely adore the smell of lemon balm and it’s not just me. Bees blooming well love lemon balm. When the plant’s tiny white flowers bloom in August and September, you’ll find scores upon scores of bees on it collecting precious pollen. As such, I have planted a couple of pots of it over the years. Pro-tip: plant it in pots otherwise it will spread. I tell myself I’m doing it for the bees, but mostly it’s simply for the fact that I adore lemon balm tea. It’s a refreshing, caffeine-free tea, and one that I reach for in the day or evening when I need a non-caffeinated pick me up.

A basket full of freshly picked lemon balm, ready for making tea with

In summer you can make fresh lemon balm tea, or you can dry the leaves for a beverage you can enjoy all year round. I’ll show you how to make fresh tea in summer. And while we’re here, I’ll also show you how to dry lemon balm leaves to preserve them for later. And then, because I’m good like that, I’ll show you how to make lemon balm tea from the dried leaves. I promise it’s a taste of summer even in the darkest depths of winter.

First Off, What Lemon Balm?

Lemon balm is an edible herbal plant known by the botanical name Melissa officinalis. The plant is also frequently called common balm and balm mint. This is because it’s closely related to the mint family. Lemon balm is often confused with lemon verbena, but these are two very separate plants from two very different parts of the world. Lemon balm is native to Europe and North Africa, whilst Lemon verbena is native to South America. You can, however, make tea from lemon verbena – it is perfectly edible – so if you have lemon verbena to hand then all is not lost!

Lemon balm has a long history of culinary use. And in many regions, lemon balm has long been used as a natural herbal remedy. Some possible health benefits of lemon balm tea include reducing stress and anxiety levels, help with insomnia, the provision of indigestion and nausea relief, and more.

Whether herbal remedies are your thing or not, lemon balm also makes a pretty tasty and refreshing cup of tea. So let’s get down to the tea-drinking business!

How to Make Fresh Lemon Balm Tea

A cup and tea infuser, with fresh lemon balm leaves

The quickest, no-fuss way is to make your tea fresh. Here’s how to make one cup of tea:

  1. After picking your fresh lemon balm leaves, give them a shake to dislodge any bugs. Then rinse the leaves under cold water, and using a tea towel, gently pat dry the leaves.
  2. Add two to three teaspoons of fresh lemon balm leaves to a tea infuser, and then place in your teacup or mug. I prefer to tear up the leaves before adding them to the tea infuser, as it helps release the lovely lemon balm flavour.
  3. In your kettle, bring the amount of water you need to a boil.
  4. Pour the hot water into the teacup and allow the lemon balm leaves to steep for around 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Drink as it is, or add a slice of lemon for additional flavour. If you need to sweeten your tea, add sugar, honey or your usual sweetener.

Do note that it’s best to use lemon balm for tea before the plant starts to flower. This is because the flavours are at their optimum peak. The plants tend to flower in August, but depending on the weather, the flowers may arrive in July.

How to Make Lemon Balm Tea from Dried Leaves

A jar containing dried lemon balm leaves next to a tea strainer

If you have dried leaves to hand then follow this tea-making guide instead. If you’re looking to dry your fresh leaves then do skip to the next section.

This makes one cup:

  1. Add one heaped teaspoon of crumbled, dried lemon balm leaves to a tea infuser.
  2. In your kettle, bring the amount of water you need to a boil.
  3. Pour the hot water into the teacup and allow the dried leaves to steep for around 5 minutes.
  4. Drink as it is, or add a slice of lemon for additional flavour. If you need to sweeten your tea, add sugar, honey or your usual sweetener.

How to Dry Lemon Balm Leaves

lemon balm on an oven dish ready to be dried in the oven

If you have a glut of lemon balm, like me, then you are going to want to dry at least some of it to tide you through the autumn and winter. There are two separate methods – in the oven, and hanging them up to dry. Let me talk you through both.

How to Dry Leaves In The Oven

Here’s the full step-by-step guide to drying lemon balm leaves in the oven:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 80°C / 176°F
  2. For the best flavour, harvest the lemon balm leaves just before the plant begins to blossom. Depending on where you are, this could be from July to August. As it’s a favourite plant of the bees, do ensure that you leave plenty for our fuzzy friends to gather pollen from.
  3. Next, cut the lemon balm stalk, just above the second row of leaves. Pruning like this encourages the lemon balm plant to produce new shoots, and maintains a source of pollen for the bees.
  4. Once you’ve gathered what you need, give the stalks a shake to dislodge any bugs. Then rinse the leaves under cold water, and gently pat dry with a clean, dry tea towel.
  5. Once dried, lay out the stems on a baking tray and heat in the oven for around 1 to 1.5 hours. Keep a close eye on your leaves to ensure they don’t burn.
  6. You can tell the leaves are fully dried when the leaves become very crisp and brittle. If you are in any doubt, give the leaves a little more time in the oven, as leaves that are not fully dried out will develop mould.
  7. When the lemon balms are sufficiently dry remove them from the oven and remove the leaves from the stalks. For best results, I find running my fingers down the stem helps remove all the leaves.
  8. Finally, place the lemon balm leaves in a clean and dry airtight jar, ready for future tea drinking times. Compost the leftover stalks.

Air Drying

If you don’t want to dry the leaves in the oven, you can dry bundles together. Simply gather several stems of lemon balm together, and tie them up around the stem with a piece of string. Then hang your bunches of lemon balm up in a cool dry spot in your house. Once dried, in approximately 2-3 weeks, follow steps 7 and 8 to store your lemon balm tea.

Storage

Your dried lemon balm will keep for around 6 months or so. For optimum freshness, store your jar in a cool dark place. If you do see any signs of mould on the dried leaves then you’ll know the leaves did not dry properly, and they should be discarded.

Enjoy!

PS: If you have mint growing in your garden, then you can also make mint tea. Here’s how to dry mint leaves for tea.

Food & Drink, Summer

How To Dry Mint Leaves for Tea In The Oven

how to dry mint leaves for tea
homemade peppermint tea

Let’s talk about how to dry mint leaves for tea in the oven, so you can enjoy the delicious taste of mint tea even when the mint season has passed.

I never used to be a mint tea kind of lady.  However, in what feels like a lifetime ago (pre-kids) my partner and I went on holiday to Morocco.  In the middle of Marrakesh’s bustling main square, Jemaa el-Fna, we found a quiet cafe.  This was a refuge from the searing 45°C African heat and the unrelenting snake charmers.

The Joys of Mint Tea

All the guidebooks warned us against drinking tap water. Or anything with ice in it.  And the freshly squeezed orange juice served ubiquitously all over the Square, for fear of stomach upset.  Our options were dwindling. Boiled water seemed like a safe bet.  And besides, the heat had been so intense that we had reached the point where it was so hot that we figured we may as well try the hot drink on a hot day trick.  We felt we simply couldn’t get any hotter.

We ordered up some mint tea, and what arrived were some pretty little glasses stuffed with fresh mint leaves and some freshly boiled water on the side.  And do you know what?  That tea, on a roaring hot day in what felt like the busiest place in the world really hit the spot.  We ending up in that cafe many times during our time in Marrakesh, drinking their fresh mint tea.

Since then we’ve grown various types of mint in our garden for the purpose of having some fresh mint to hand to make tea with.  Which is all well and good in the summer, but in Scotland in winter doesn’t really work.  Here I’ve resorted to tea bags, but after the whole plastic in tea bags thing I’ve been thinking about how to de-plastic my tea.

You Can Dry Mint In the Oven

Right now our mint plant is growing so vigorously that we have an overabundance of fresh mint.  There’s more than I can possibly drink.  Therefore, I have been drying mint leaves in the oven to store for the winter.

Some people hang their herbs up to dry.  However, with a lack of space and a lack of a warm dry space, I prefer to dry mine in the oven.  If you’re in a similar predicament here’s how to dry mint leaves for tea in the oven.

how to dry mint leaves for tea

How to Dry Mint Leaves for Tea In The Oven

How To Dry Mint Leaves for Tea

Ingredients

  • Fresh mint leaves
  • Clean dry jar

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 80°C
  2. Pick the peppermint stalks (I cut just below the last leaf) and place in a colander.
  3. Give the colander a good shake to remove any beasties, and then give the stalks a wash under cold running water.
  4. Gently dry the leaves using a tea towel and remove any discoloured leaves.
  5. Spread the stalks out on a baking tray and bake in the oven for around 1.5 hours – keeping an eye on them to ensure the leaves don’t burn.
  6. You can tell the leaves are fully dried out when the leaves become very crisp and brittle. When they are sufficiently dry remove from the oven and gently remove the leaves from the stalks, placing the leaves in a clean dry airtight jar.  I then compost the stalks.

Your mint will store for at least 12 months if kept in a cool dark cupboard.

Rather than cutting up the whole of my mint plant, I’ve been cutting an oven dish worth of leaves every week or two.  This allows for new growth so as to keep me in fresh mint leaves for tea over the summer.  It also helps me slowly build up a nice stock of dried mint for wintertime.

How to Make Mint Tea With The Dried Leaves

To make mint tea, I add one to two teaspoons of dried mint leaves to either a strainer, infuser, teapot, or reusable teabag (whatever you’ve got, basically).  I then add boiling water and allow the mint leaves to infuse for a few minutes before drinking.

drying peppermint leaves in the oven
dried peppermint leaves

Enjoy!

PS: if you have lemon balm growing in your garden, then here’s how you can make lemon balm tea too!