Making Lavender and Honey Herb Tea

For many of you who grow lavender in your garden, the thought of creating your own herbal tea has probably crossed your mind. The process is really very easy and the tea is relaxing and revitalizing—without caffeine.

The first thing you need to do is make sure you are using a lavender that is compatible with culinary uses.  Most lavenders (and hybrids) will work fine for tea, but some like the Spanish Lavender (stoechas: the ones with the flowers shaped like pineapples with the bunny ears on top) are too strong for most culinary applications. In the more traditional lavenders there are two main types: the augustifolia (English varieties) and the intermedia (Grosso, Provence, etc.)  Both of these are fine, but the intermedia are stronger with more savory herbal flavors, whereas the augustifolia are less intense, sweeter and more floral.

There are several “seasons” for harvesting lavender.  The first, is the floral harvest, when you are planning to use the lavender for dried arrangements. This occurs in mid-to-late May before the flowers are in full bloom…generally the lavender is ready when 2/3 of the flowers are open on the bloom stalk (also called the haulm). At this point, when you bundle and hang the blooms to dry, the flowers will cling to the stalk rather than completely fall off. This is the time to harvest for tea.

The best time of day to harvest for maximum flavor is early morning.  Overnight the flowers will have re-saturated with essential oils. The oils tend to evaporate when the daytime temperature rises above 70°–so an early harvest will have the strongest taste profile. Harvest the lavender stem just above the green plant ball, and trim off about 3/4 of the stem (to just above the highest leaf.)  They’re now ready for bundling and drying.

When you have gathered your lavender into roughly 2” bundles; tie them with twine or rubber bands at the bottom of the stem. Find a cool, dry place to hang the bundles upside down (a garage is generally a great environment.)  If you hang the bundles in a place that’s exposed to sun, the lavender color will fade and your lavender will turn grayish brown—this won’t affect the flavor.  Hanging them upside down will cause the essential oils to concentrate in the blossoms.

Lavender should dry for at least three weeks, and ideally six weeks to be very dry.  At this point, the blossoms will still be attached to the stalk and will have retained some of their original color, but the scent will be muted. If you take a few of the flowers and rub them between your hands, you’ll see that the essential oils are still heavily imbued in the dried flowers.

When you get ready to prepare your dried lavender for tea you need to “garble” your buds.  Garbling is the same process you use to strip thyme from its stem.  Hold the dried stalk from the top and run your fingers down the stalk—the buds will strip away easily.

Before you brew, you need to clean the buds a bit.  The dried buds will have a little naturally occurring pollen and other non-flower items. Shake the buds in a medium-fine sieve several times over the sink; you will see the pollen and other bits and pieces fall out.

Now you are ready to brew your lavender herb tea. This recipe is for a medium-strong tea. To increase the strength and/or flavor reduce the amount of water.  We don’t recommend increasing the steep time, because this can result in bitter flavors.

Ingredients:

Directions:

  • Boil water in a kettle
  • Put lavender buds in a heat resistant measuring cup
  • Pour boiling water over buds and let steep for 2 minutes
  • Strain tea into a cup and discard buds
  • Stir in honey
  • Enjoy!

Do you make a lavender tea with other herbs or flavors?  Let us know your secret recipe!

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