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Growing Your Own Tea


Homo sapiens have been brewing tea for about 5000 years now, give or take a century or two. These warm infusions were crafted for various purposes: religious rituals, medicinal benefits, daily enjoyment, and they were even used as ancient battle stimulants. The Vikings used to ingest Henbane tea (Hyoscyamus niger) before skirmishes to reduce their pain sensation and make themselves overly aggressive. These days, most of us just enjoy the mild caffeine stimulation of a good cup of Earl Grey, or the floral bouquets and subtle medicinal qualities of herbal teas.

The good news here is that you can grow a wide variety of herbal teas that can be enjoyed fresh or harvested and dried for later use. So here is a short compendium of easy-to-grow ornamental annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees, and vines that double as quality tea ingredients.

Bee Balm (Monarda spp.)

Monarda fistulosa

If you like Earl Grey then you are going to love Bee Balm tea, as the flavours are very similar. It can be made from the leaves and flowers of either wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) or the more common ornamental Monarda didyma. Some find this tea to taste like a combination of mint and citrus, but that Earl Grey aroma is quite distinct.

Chamomile (Matricaria / Chamaemelum)

Matricaria chamomilla

Chamomile tea is well known as a calming or sleeping aid, but did you know that it also helps with muscle spasms, inflammation, and even hay fever? This tea is brewed from the flowers of two different plant species, the annual German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) and the perennial Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). Both are quite easy to grow and produce abundant blooms to dry for later use.

Common Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Salvia officinalis purple

While most of us consider Sage an essential stuffing spice for the Thanksgiving turkey, it has long been used as a medicinal tea. Not only does it lower bad cholesterol, but it is also high in antioxidants and has been proven to improve brain function. Some find the tea somewhat bitter, but with a little ginger, lemon, and honey it tastes great.

Elderflower (Sambucus nigra)

Elderflower syrup ingredients

Elderflower is another one of my favourite teas with a floral-fruity flavour that I find refreshing either hot or cold. It is brewed from the fresh or dried flowers of the Black Elderberry bush (Sambucus nigra), which also produces delicious berries for jellies or cordials when allowed to ripen. High in antioxidants and vitamin C, this is one of the healthiest herbal teas available.

Jasmine (Jasminum)

Jasmine Tea

Jasmine tea is actually an infused green or black tea (Camellia sinensis) made by layering the tea leaves with fragrant jasmine flowers to permeate the flavour. Two species are used, the hardy Jasminum officinale and the tropical Arabian Jasmine (Jasminum sambac), which can occasionally be found as a houseplant. You can actually add a few fresh jasmine flowers to either green or black tea to flavour it, just be sure you have the right species.

Labrador Tea (Ledum or Rhododendron groenlandicum)

Ledum groenlandicum

Although considered a medicinal tea by First Nations, I really like the earthy Earl Grey tea flavour of Labrador tea. This species is native to much of Northern Canada and the cultivated plants are very hard to come by. The leaves can be brewed either fresh or dry, although the shrub itself tends to grow in bogs and swamps, so isn’t always easy to find.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Lemon Balm Tea

(📸 mescioglu from Getty Images)

This calming herb has been used since the Middle Ages and it is a very easy plant to grow. That said, lemon balm is also a member of the mint family and readily spreads, so either grow it in a dedicated bed or a large container. Lemon balm tea also helps with sleep, improves appetite, reduces stress, and aids with indigestion.

Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla or citrodora)

Aloysia triphylla

Lemon verbena is one of my favourite herbs for tea as it has a pure lemon flavour and aids with digestion, so it is a good choice after a large meal. Unfortunately, this species is native to South America and at USDA zone 9, does not survive the winters here. That said, the dried leaves hold their flavour well and it can be grown indoors as a houseplant with bright light.

Linden (Tilia cordata)

Tilia Linden Flower

Linden tea has been considered folk medicine for hundreds of years in Europe, where it is used for calming, relieving high blood pressure, and aiding digestion. The flowers can be brewed fresh or dried into a flavourful beverage with a citrusy floral flavour, although some find it somewhat similar to chamomile.

Mint (Mentha spp.)

Mint - Candymint

There are so many mints to choose from but a few of the better choices for tea would be ‘Kentucky Colonel’ (think Mint Juleps), ‘Moroccan’ (with green tea), ‘Candymint’ (dessert tea), ‘Hillary’s Sweet Lemon’, Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) and Spearmint (Mentha spicata). This caffeine-free tea aids in digestion and can even help with a stuffed nose or congestion. It is also an aggressive perennial that needs to be controlled or grown in a container.

Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)

Pineapple Sage - Salvia elegans

This tender herb tastes great in both cold and hot teas, with the latter being so much better with a little lemon and honey. It is a natural antidepressant and a staple of Mexican traditional medicine, with both the leaves and brilliant red flowers being edible. You can grow it as a summer flower (USDA zone 8) and dehydrate some leaves for winter use.

Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis)

Pot Marigold - Calendula officinalis

Here’s a beautiful annual that doubles as a source of herbal tea. The bright orange petals of Calendula officinalis make a slightly bitter herbal brew that is reputed to be high in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. Serve this one in a clear glass mug to enjoy its stunning tangerine hue.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Rosemary officinalis 'Rex'

All plants that bear the officinalis epithet were named so by Linnaeus for their history of medicinal or culinary use. Rosemary tea can be brewed from either fresh or dried leaves and provides many health benefits, including anti-inflammatory, relieving headaches, and aiding digestion. A squeeze of lemon is often added, and it also tastes good when iced.

Rugosa Rosa (Rosa rugosa)

Rosa rugosa hips

This very cold hardy species rose (USDA zone 3) is a great source of both flower petals and hips that can be dried and used to make tea. Not only will it boost your immunity with its high vitamin C, but it also helps with joint pain and arthritis. Rose petal tea also pairs well with chamomile.

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)


The oil from this evergreen subshrub is also the flavouring source for old-fashioned bubblegum like Dubble Bubble and Bazooka Joe, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the leaves make an excellent tea. First Nations have long known about its effects reducing joint pain, inflammation, and nausea. Wintergreen is also a great ornamental and grows well in containers.

My Four Tea Rules

Before you enjoy any of the herbal teas I’ve mentioned here, please take note of my four rules.

1. Always positively identify the plant you are going to ingest by its proper botanical name, as common names can apply to different species, some of which can be poisonous.

2. If you are trying a tea for the first time, use caution and drink a very small amount as you might be allergic or have other unforeseen reactions.

3. Visit the Plants for a Future Website by googling the botanical name and the acronym PFAF. There you can read about possible side-effects or limitations, such as use during pregnancy.

4. Always source your tea ingredients from organic plants or at least grow your new herbs for a minimum of six months before harvesting if you are unsure if they were organically produced.

In my next article, we will look into the world of growing green or black tea (Camellia sinensis) and I will even show you how to harvest and process your own.

All images Copyright 2024 MK Lascelle except those already credited

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