Homemade tea blends are easy to make and package perfectly as favors for wedding or shower guests. The hardest part is deciding what kind of tea you want to make. Once it is all made up, you will find you have lots and lots of it, because a little bit of dried leaves go a long, long way.
Make loose-leaf tea by picking your own homegrown leaves or buying tea in bulk, and blend the leaves as you like, adding herbs and spices. My first tea was mint tea, because I love it and because I have a large peppermint plant in my backyard. Then I made a raspberry leaf tea with an addition of tarragon and mint.
This year I was inspired to make a guava tea after a hike in the mountains of Kauai’i. We were high up in the jungle, and all along the sides of the trail were wild strawberry guavas. Their fragrance filled the air with memories of a Phillippine mountain tea that my daughters brought home several years ago. At the time, I was not able to find more of it because the Philippine women who had gathered it had no name for the plant, it was simply “mountain tea”. On this hike, the memories came flooding back. I saw local hikers eating the little wild fruits, and they told me the name of the plant, and that the fruit is good to eat especially when you are hiking, because of its water content and also the amount of vitamin C it has. Once back home, I learned that a popular tea in Asia is made of guava leaves. I added mint leaves because it is a delicate flavor that adds just a little accent to the guava leaf taste.
For your tea, you can use any combination of the items listed below. When harvesting, be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN of what you are collecting, and use only the edible portion of the plant. Misidentification can result in mild to severe physical distress, or worse.
Leaves to harvest or purchase:
camellia sinensis leaves (which becomes black tea, white tea, and green tea)
strawberry guava – young leaves
rose hips, chopped
Jasmine (jasmine officinale) flowers
To pick and dry leaves for tea:
Harvest only the young leaves early in the morning before the sun’s rays have touched them. Then lay the leaves to dry loosely on newspaper in a well ventilated room, or outdoors out of the sun. Allow to rest for a few days; the leaves will go limp. If you need to speed up the drying, like I do in western Oregon where things just don’t get bone dry without help, you can put them in a dehydrator or warm oven (no more than 100 degrees). It is best if you can allow the leaves to dry slowly; drying at a low temperature retains the flavor of the leaves the best.
To assemble tea bags:
Make sure the ingredients for your tea are bone-dry, then mix and test until it is to your liking. Pack into heat-sealable tea bags. Prepare the tags (I ordered dark pink heart-shaped tags in Spring style). String them on short strings, then insert the end of the strings into the bag opening and iron the bag opening to seal it. The string will be sealed into the bag.
I used heart-top boxes in white and adorned them with square labels to match the tea tags. Place 3 to 4 tea bags inside and allow the tags to hang outside the boxes. This way they serve double-duty as tags for the teabags, and as tags for the package. Simple and pretty.
More homemade gift and favor ideas from Jeanne…
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