This year I am hot on growing different types of plants to make some very delectable iced and hot teas. New this year is Hibiscus sabdariffa, Thai Roselle. I can’t wait to try it. This is the same plant used to make Celestial Seasoning’s Red Zinger tea. The bright, scarlet red calyces (the part that forms a cup around the flower) are cranberry flavored. Pour hot water over them, steep and you have a refreshing summer tea, hot or cold. The leaves also make a nice tea and can be used in salads. The flowers are fruity tasting and go excellently with frozen desserts. In Thailand this plant is very popular and used to make jams, jellies, sauces and even fiber! Cool plant! There are many health benefits as well. It is high in antioxidants and immune boosting, and reduces blood pressure. (If you are on medication for blood pressure you may want to check with your doctor before using it too much.)
Other great tea plants are available as well. Lemon verbena has a great lemony flavor and scent. Steep it all by itself or add it to other ingredients such as black tea or mint. Steep the leaves until the water is a pretty, light green and drink warm or cold. Delicious! Spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint and mint julep make classic mint teas to cool off any hot summer day, not to mention they go great in mixed drinks. A customer and personal favorite is holy basil or Tulsi with its stress reducing, calming and blood sugar-balancing benefits. Some people say Tulsi smells like bubble gum. The flowers of Tulsi attract hummingbirds and honey bees. I have often thought if bees made honey from Tulsi flowers it would be so delicious. At the medicinal end, there is valerian for insomniacs and horehound for coughs and sore throats. And finally, there is stevia. Add stevia leaves while steeping to any of the above teas to sweeten the flavor. All or some of these make a great garden or mixed container. Not only are they useful, but pretty as well.