If you have a garden or wild berry patch nearby, chances are you already have the plants you need to start making delicious homemade and homegrown teas. Find out how below!
Let’s face it: tea is a hot drink (as in popular), although sometimes we think it’s better served cold. In 1990, Americans drank about $2 billion dollars in tea. Today, we drink about $7 billion dollars of tea annually.
Here in the south, we tend to add so much sugar to our “sweet tea,” that it’s almost better served as a syrup on top of pancakes than in a glass. However, when it’s not over-sugared, tea is a great way to stay hydrated while drinking something tasty. Depending on the tea you choose, you can also get lots of vitamins and minerals, plus some potent medicinal benefits to boot.
Want to grow tea or wild harvest your own tea?
Even if you don’t have a garden, there’s a good chance that there are edible plants growing in your yard right now, and some of those plants likely have flowers and leaves that make a delicious, healthy tea. And if you don’t have a yard, but you have access to the great outdoors, you might still be able to *forage some delicious, medicinal tea.
*Warning: As we detail in our Beginner’s guide to foraging, Never eat anything you’re not 100% certain you’ve correctly ID’d AND you’re not 100% certain is edible. There are plenty of plants that can kill you or make you very sick.
Organic Tea – Whether you grow, forage, or buy your tea, be sure that you’re not consuming plants that have been treated with pesticides. It doesn’t make medical sense to expose yourself to those compounds or use them n your yard or garden.
6 delicious teas you can make from common garden plants
Without further ado, here are six delicious teas you can make from common garden plants (each one is good served hot or over ice):
1. Hibiscus Tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
About Hibiscus Tea
Given how many hybrid hibiscus plants have been bred over the past century, we’re hesitant to say that ALL hibiscus flowers are edible. However, what we can say with certainty is that the variety Hibiscus sabdariffa is not only edible, it’s delicious! It’s also a beautiful addition to an edible landscape.
We also eat the leaves, which have a nice tart tangy flavor in their own right. However, the calyxes (the fruit/seed pod of the plant) are where the real magic is.
They’re a gorgeous deep red color and much “meatier” than the flower pods of other hibiscus varieties we’ve grown.
What do Hibiscus sabdariffa calyxes taste like? Tangy and tart, pairs well with Meyer Lemon juice.
Plant Life Cycle: Annual in cooler climates, perennial in tropical climates
How to prepare hibiscus calyx tea
To make hibiscus tea, snap the calyxes off of the plant by hand or with clippers once they’ve matured (usually ~48 hours after the flower drops). Chop up two whole calyxes (fresh or dried) per cup for an intense red, tangy tea. Sweeten with honey or stevia leaf.
Proven medicinal benefits of hibiscus calyxes
- A USDA study showed consuming hibiscus tea lowered blood pressure in a group of prehypertensive and mildly hypertensive adults. Hypertension is a severe increase in blood pressure that can lead to a stroke. Researchers believe this is due to hibiscus’s angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibiting activity.
- Reduces total blood cholesterol, aka serum cholesterol.
Note: Hibiscus sabdariffa is not recommended for use during pregnancy.
Where to buy Hibiscus sabdariffa seeds, tea, or powder:
- Certified Organic Hibiscus Seeds (1 g)
- Certified Organic Cut Hibiscus Roselle for Tea (1 lb)
- Certified Organic Hibiscus Powder (1 lb)
2. Stinging Nettle
About Stinging Nettle Tea
There are native varieties of Stinging Nettle throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, so there’s a good chance you’ve seen this plant growing on the edges of fields and forests. Its leaf shape and growth habit is very similar to catnip.
We also grow Stinging Nettle in our garden, but it can spread rapidly, especially if you let it seed out. In fact, we love this edible plant so much that we wrote an article all about how you can grow and use stinging nettle.
As the name implies, Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) can pack quite a wallop if you touch it before it’s been cooked. It feels like a jellyfish sting. The plant’s trichomes (tiny stinging hairs on the leaves and stems) inject histamine and other chemicals into your skin.
However, once cooked (boiled, steamed, steeped) — as when made into tea — its stinging abilities are neutralized and you can enjoy all the flavor, nutrition, and medicinal benefits the plant has to offer. It features a delightful floral-cucumber-spinach flavor, and is considered to be one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables in the world.
Stinging nettle also boasts one of the highest protein ratios of any veggie (up to 34% protein, dry weight), and is exceptionally high in Vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium.
What does stinging nettle taste like? Stinging nettle tastes like a mild combination of cucumbers, and spinach. The aroma of the tea is delightful: it reminds us of figs.
Plant Life Cycle: Perennial
How to prepare stinging nettle
In our opinion, the young spring shoots and leaves of stinging nettle offer the best flavor when they’re about 6-8″ tall. Don’t eat them later in the season or they take on a gritty consistency.
When harvesting, trim the shoots back to the first growth segment, so they’ll regrow. You’ll definitely want to wear gloves unless you’re a seasoned pro who knows how to handle the plant without getting stung by its trichomes. Pour boiling water over the freshly harvested or dried leaves; sweeten as desired.
As mentioned, this is a wonderful food plant as well; two of our favorite spring treats are stinging nettle soup & stinging nettle pesto.
Proven medicinal benefits of stinging nettle
- Treating urinary problems during the early stages of an enlarged prostate (aka benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH) – source
- Treating osteoarthritis (OA) – source
- Treating other inflammatory disorders (in addition to OA) – source
- Treating allergies (allergic rhinitis) – source
- Stinging nettle may even help with hair loss – source
Where to buy stinging nettle
- Nettle Leaf Tea, Cut & Sifted, Organic (1 Lb)
- Organic, Heirloom Stinging Nettle Seeds (200 seeds)
3. Strawberry Leaves
About Strawberry Leaf Tea
We grow lots of different varieties of strawberries in our garden, ranging from the tiny yellow wonder strawberries to our native wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana). We also grow ever-bearing hybrid varieties so we can eat fresh strawberries in spring and again in late summer-fall.
We can’t understate how much we love strawberry fruit, so when we found out the leaves made a great tea, we considered starting a cult of strawberry plant worshippers to ensure the plant received its due reverence.
What do strawberry leaves taste like? Made into tea, strawberry leaves are surprisingly fruity and delicious, but we’ve only used fresh Fragaria virginiana leaves. Leaves from other strawberry varieties may offer different flavor notes.
Plant Life Cycle: Perennial
How to prepare strawberry leaf tea
Use 1 heaping teaspoon of dried leaves or 3-4 chopped fresh leaves per cup of tea. Put leaves in tea ball or simply strain out when pouring into cup. Sweeten with honey or stevia leaf.
Proven medicinal benefits of strawberry leaves
Strawberry berries and leaves both contain a wide range of vitamins, minerals and beneficial compounds. Apparently, strawberry leaves—especially wild strawberry varieties—have exceptionally high antioxidant levels.
Very little research has been done on the medicinal qualities of strawberries and/or strawberry leaves. However, according to WebMD (which is a reasonably reliable source): “Strawberry contains chemicals that are antioxidants and might keep cancer cells from multiplying. Other chemicals in strawberry might slow down the speed at which the nervous system ages. That’s why some researchers are interested in studying whether strawberry might help prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease or other diseases that involve progressive loss of nerve function.”
Where to buy
- Native Wild Strawberry Seeds (50 seeds)
- Organic ever-bearing strawberry crowns/plants (10 bare root plants)
- Organic Strawberry Leaf Tea (1 Lb)
4. Raspberry Leaves
About Raspberry Leaf Tea
Remember how we said we felt about strawberries? Ditto for raspberries. We grow a few different varieties of black, yellow, and red raspberries, and love them all in their own right.
Our black raspberries usually come in first, followed by the reds, then our goldens. We also have ever-bearing gold and red varieties that will produce throughout the summer into the fall, so we’re never without raspberries when the weather is warm—which would be positively inhumane.
The reds offer a bit more tang than our gold or black raspberries, however we can’t tell any difference in the flavor of the leaves of our various raspberry plants when they’re made into tea.
What does raspberry leaf tea taste like? Tea made using fresh raspberry leaves tastes surprisingly similar to the actual berry: sublime hints of tang and fruit. When you use dried leaves, the tea takes on a flavor more reminiscent of black tea.
Plant Life Cycle: Perennial
How to prepare raspberry leaf tea
We trim some of the newer leaf growth from our raspberry plants as they emerge, being sure not to over-harvest the leaves in such a way as to inhibit fruit growth. Also, since cane berries tend to be very vigorous and spread via underground runners, we’ll save the leaves from any canes we trim out of beds.
If we don’t use them immediately, we dry the leaves indoors on drying racks. This easily provides a few large zip lock bags full of dried raspberry leaves for us to enjoy as tea throughout the fall and winter, when the fresh leaves are unavailable.
For a strong cup of raspberry leaf tea, steep a tablespoon of dried leaves in near boiling water for about 5 minutes. The berry fragrance and flavor is amazing! Sweeten with honey or stevia leaf.
Proven medicinal benefits of raspberry leaves
Raspberry leaves are high in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, phosphorus, not to mention Vitamins A, B complex, C, and E.
Does raspberry tea leaf tea work as well for pregnant women as it’s been rumored to in folk medicine? Preliminary research shows very promising results.
Where to raspberry leaf tea or plants
- Organic Raspberry Leaf Tea (16 oz)
- Raspberry plants
5. Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria)
About Yaupon Holly Tea
Trivia time! What’s the only plant native to North America that contains caffeine? Answer: Yaupon Holly.
Where do you find it? Well, there’s a good chance you or one of your neighbors have it growing in your yard, since it’s such a commonly used evergreen landscape plant. It can reach 30′ in height, but is typically kept trimmed to a small bush, often in rows or hedges.
It’s also interesting to note that Yaupons were of great cultural importance to various Native American groups living in the southeastern US, the plant’s native habitat. They used it both in ceremony and as a welcoming drink when hosting guests.
European settlers referred to the ceremonial Yaupon concoctions the Native Americans made as the “black drink,” and thought that it induced vomiting. This mythology earned the plant its scientific name “vomitoria,” from William Aiton, who grew it in his garden in Kew, England, but never actually drank the tea or even travelled to the New World.
Read more How to make lemon tea with lemon juice
Despite its name and mythology, the leaves of Yaupon holly are quite safe. It’s the plant’s berries that can lead to GI discomfort.
In fact, up until the early 1800s, teas made from Yaupon holly twigs and leaves were quite popular with European settlers and African Americans, not just the Native American populations. The displacement and/or genocide of the Native Americans combined with effective marketing by imported tea and coffee suppliers likely hastened Yaupon Holly’s decline in popularity as a beverage.
What does yaupon holly tea taste like? Yaupon holly tea has a mild, pleasant, slightly vegetal flavor that’s very similar to green tea. We actually like it better than any of the teas made from Camellia sinensis leaves (green, black, white, yellow, and oolong teas are all made from the same plant: Camellia sinensis).
When biologists at University of Florida conducted taste tests comparing Yaupon to Yerba Mate, they found that: “Panelists significantly preferred yaupon holly with and without twigs over yerba mate… The highest ranked infusion was pure leaf yaupon tea.”
Plant Life Cycle: Perennial
How to prepare yaupon holly tea:
Trim the young growth tips off the plant for best flavor (older leaves and twigs are fine too, but may produce a stronger, more astringent flavor). Both the stems and the leaves can be used fresh or dried in tea. Do NOT use the berries, as these can make you sick (see above).
Use 1-2 teaspoons of chopped fresh or dried leaves and stems per cup of tea. Steep in near-boiling water for 5 minutes. The tea is light greenish-brown in color. Again, this drink does contain caffeine, so be prepared for a nice lift!
Proven medicinal benefits of yaupon holly tea
Yaupon holly tea is high in both caffeine and antioxidants. A 2018 paper published in the journal Nutrients, reviewed various Ilex teas and their medicinal/health benefits, detailing the following health benefits of yaupon holly and other Ilex-based teas, such as:
- cardiovascular protective
Where to buy yaupon holly
- Dwarf yaupon holly bush (one gallon)
- Yaupon holly tea
6. Blueberry Leaves
About blueberry leaf tea
Remember how we said we felt about strawberries and raspberries? Yep, same with blueberries. Without blueberries, would there really be any reason to go on living? It’s debatable.
We were excited when we found out that blueberry leaves also made an antioxidant rich tea. You can technically harvest the green blueberry leaves for tea. However, the best time of year to harvest blueberry tea leaves for maximum flavor and health benefits is in the fall once their color starts to turn crimson due to higher concentrations of anthocyanin flavonoids, beneficial antioxidant compounds in the leaves.
Supposedly, the most antioxidant-dense blueberry leaves come from the northern lowland blueberry varieties (Vaccinium angustifolium), but we do just fine with our highland varieties.
What does blueberry leaf tea taste like? Blueberry leaf tea does not taste like blueberry berries. It’s a very subtle flavor with notes of grass, flowers, and bit of bitter.
Plant Life Cycle: Perennial
How to prepare blueberry leaf tea
Harvest leaves in fall when they’ve turned red due to cooling weather. Use 1-2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh or dried blueberry leaves per cup of tea. Steep in near-boiling water for about 5 minutes before serving. Sweeten with honey or stevia leaf.
Blueberry leaf tea medicinal benefits
A 2014 study showed that compounds in blueberry leaf tea have powerful anti-obesity effects. A 2018 study found a wide range of blueberry leaf medicinal benefits, including some interesting brain health benefits:
“Blueberries anthocyanins and ethylacetate fraction of blueberry leaf were related with increased neuronal signaling in the brain, mediating memory function and glucose disposal as well as delay neurodegeneration [60,93].”
Where to buy blueberries and blueberry leaf tea:
- Blueberry plants
- Bilberry leaf tea (bilberries are blueberries native to Northern Europe)
We hope this article helps you make more tea time!
Final tip: always make sure that your pinky finger is fully extended when sipping tea. Doing so gives you the air of sophistication, especially if you’re wearing a monocle.