Before I moved to Europe the only kind of tea that would pass these lips was iced and sweet. Tea made in my mother’s house was brewed and served according to very strict guidelines:
- There was one small aluminum pot used to make the tea. No other other pot would do and NOTHING else could ever be cooked in that pot. I learned this the hard way after warming up a chef boyardee after school snack.
- After the water is at a rolling boil, put in one pinch of baking soda, turn off the water, immerse, two Lipton family-size bags, cover with a thick, old saucer and wait at least 10 but not more than 20 minutes.
- Add two large scoops of Dixie Crystal sugar to a large, glass pitcher
- Pour hot tea over the sugar and stir until all sugar melts.
- Top up with cold tap water until pitcher is full
- Serve immediately over glasses filled to the brim with ice. If the ice floats, add more. Never serve first cups with floating ice.
- Finish entire pitcher and never store over night, not even in ‘fridge.
It’s not often that I drink this kind of tea anymore, even if I could find it outside of Georgia. And as for hot tea, well that’s one of those things like free jazz that I really want to like, but alas my tastes are slow to mature beyond the days of sweet tea and bluegrass.
I am in the last stretch of certification as a nature therapy guide and one of my final projects is to identify with 110% certainty between 4-6 plants that I can forage and brew into a tea served on a nature therapy walk. And though I am getting to know the names of the trees and plants around me (I call the Japanese Maple in my garden Ruby), the goal of nature therapy is less a naturalists’ endeavor of classification and far more a somatic experience with the more-than-human world. I’m rightfully wary of serving folks what I pluck from the forest because what looks tasty is often poisonous and what seems dangerous can turn out to be incredibly healthy!
So, rather than relying on books and handy Youtube foraging videos, I recently reached out to the incredibly wise Lynn Shore, founder of Urban Herbology in Amsterdam, and spent a lovely morning wandering through her “River of Herbs” gardens in a city park learning about delicious plants that grow in abundance in The Netherlands.
As we walked and talked and touched the tender plants, Lynn plucked herbs and placed them in thermoses filled with piping hot water. I picked and tasted a bit of Wild Garlic, Stinging Nettle, Lemon Balm, Sweet Cicely, Garlic Mustard, Sweet Woodruff, Cleavers and Wild Geranium. Each plant I met was bursting with fragrance and flavor and my tastebuds were beyond thrilled with the invitation to experience the delights of the wild world.
We sat on a path strewn with pink blossoms and sipped the steeped tea and talked about the benefits of the plants, respectful foraging and how a love for nature inspires a genuine care for the environment.
This new way of getting to know tea, looking for the friends in the field that we can forage and share under the trees, is the tea-making tradition I hope to share with others on our journey of falling more deeply in love with creation.