How to Brew Tea By LaTara Ham-Ying Herbal teas are not only great tasting but they are beneficial to your health and you can use one herb or a mix for a powerful brew. From chamomile, lavender, lemon grass, rosehips, and don quai, there is an herbal tea for so just about every illness, condition, or disease under the sun. What I like is that you can use most herbal teas to make your own "punch" or "juice". There are many tools for creating herbal teas but all you really need is a pot or kettle to boil water in, a teapot or glass canning jar for steeping, and a strainer. You can strain your teas through a tea ball but the simplest is a fine-mesh stainless steel gravy strainer found in kitchen stores. I use one and it works just fine. Remember that the herbs will expand so when filling up your strainer of choice keep that in mine. Ideally you want to use spring, distilled, or filtered water and you always want to brew your tea in a ceramic, glass, copper, or stainless steel container. I just brew mine in the pot I boil he water in because it is stainless steel and then I drain it into a ceramic or glass container. Because herbal teas can be brewed using the leaves, roots, bark, seeds, or flowers; alone or in combination, you need to consider a few techniques to acquire a perfect cup of herbal tea. Teas made from the leaves or flowers are infused. This protects the delicate oils from evaporating. You can make an infusion by placing herbs in a warmed teapot or canning pot and gently pour the boiling water over the herbs, cover to prevent evaporation, steep for 10 - 15 minutes, and strain. In general, use one teaspoon of dried or 3 teaspoons of fresh, bruised herb per cup of water. Another option would be to boil the water and add the herbs directly into the water, straining once it has cooled. Just note that if you do it this way when you strain it you may get some over the herbs in your tea, but no harm done. Teas made from the roots, bark or seeds are decocted to release their properties. A decoction requires the roots or bark to be cut into small pieces and the seeds to be bruised with a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon. If you purchase your herbs from a store then there should be no need to concern yourself with any cutting because the herbs should already be cut. To brew these herbs, place 1/2 to one ounce of herb into a pot with (2 cups) of cold water, bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat, simmer gently for 10 - 20 minutes, and strain. Teas made with stronger spices such as ginger, clove or cinnamon will need to be adjusted for personal tastes. To make a tea with both roots/bark/seeds and leaves/flowers follow the directions for making a decoction using just the roots, bark or seeds. In other words brew the roots/bark/seeds and leaves/flowers as instructed and then pour the strained decoction over the leaves or flowers and infuse. You can also brew herbal teas in the sun. All you need to so is add three teaspoons of herbs to every cup of water you use and place in a glass jar or pitcher. Place the jar or pitcher where it will receive full sunlight like the roof top, back porch, or where ever you get the most sun. Brew in sun no less than 4 or 5 hours and for the strongest brew let it sit in the sun all day, giving it a shake or two every so often. If you are making an iced herbal tea, follow the same procedures as above, making the brew double-strength. After straining, chill for 30 minutes and pour over a glass full of ice. You may find that the herbal teas are delicate enough that sweetening is not necessary but any natural organic sweetener, like honey or agave nectar, is fine to use. There are also naturally sweet herbs that can be added to the teas such as licorice root and stevia. Unused tea should be refrigerated and used within 24 hours of brewing. If you are new to tea brewing I suggest you start with no more than one or two herbs. Here are some great combinations to help you get started: Rose hips and chamomile Lemon grass and lavender Anise and cinnamon Lemon grass and mint Peppermint and lavender Fenugreek and alfalfa or mint Rose Hips and hibiscus flowers Sage and lemon verbena Applying the techniques found in this article can help you brew a great cup of tea that everyone can enjoy.