It’s a very cold day for most of the country today. Temperatures are finally above freezing in the Puget Sound where I live. Last week I cleaned up the greenhouse to set up heat pads and grow lights and began the 2014 planting season. Because it still feels a lot like winter it is especially odd to witness little seedlings coming to life in the greenhouse! But what an exciting sight! With just a few sets of shop lights and a heater we can easily wake up sleeping seeds. Each year in late January I have to convince myself it is not TOO early to start seedlings indoors. And despite how it still feels like spring is nowhere in sight, it will be here sooner than I think.
Each year in February, I like to send you love themed teas. I am not big into “Valentines Day”, but I recognise the need for herbal indulgence and feel good herbs this month. Typically one of the coldest and most barren months, February can be a emotionally challenging to slog through without a warm uplifting beverage on hand at all times. Sol Mate and Chocolatl are stimulating and are best drank in the morning or just after a big lunch. Bliss is a great feel good tea that works wonders as a late afternoon pick-me-up.
In February, in my own life, I make special efforts to create fun and rewarding projects for myself to keep my personal morale up. I usually get cookbooks as gifts during the holidays so I spent a lot of time reading through them and trying out new or unusual dishes that capture my attention. With a shortage of locally grown produce in February I tend to focus my cooking on projects that test my patience and skills such as baking, braising, and dishes heavily flavored with dried spices. I get really motivated to work hard all day so I can kick back at 4pm and begin an exciting cooking project. I am currently trying to learn to make better croissants and brioche…which go well with braised pork or lamb shoulder that is richly spiced and tender. I have been perpetually inspired by the slow roasted root vegetables cooked in the wood fire oven at Bar Sajor in Seattle. I have tried many iterations of my own. Because I do not have a fancy wood fire oven, I slow roast the vegetables in the oven then finish them off over a small wood fire…they get the most wonderful smokey seasoning, plus I get to go to bed with essence of campfire on my skin (always a plus). Anyways, if you find yourself getting a case of the February Funks, drink some Bliss tea and treat yourself to creative projects that reflect what you love!
I recommend sharing February Bird’s Eye Teas with friends and loved ones to help maintain optimism and connection. It always feels better when I talk about what is happening right now in my life but also my plans for the spring and memories of the summers past.
Damiana, Rose Hips, Passionflower, Peppermint, Cloves, Licorice Root, and Cacao Nibs
Pour 1.5 cups hot water over 1-2 tsp tea. Steep 4-7 minutes. Tastes great with a touch of milk.
Sip this tea and allow your stress to melt away and let your humor and light nature shine through. Kick those shoes off and dance!
Damiana is a shrub native to Southwest Texas, Mexico, and parts of Central America. The damiana I use is wildcrafted (hand harvested from wild populations) in Northern Mexico. I buy damiana from a really cool company out of Sebastopol, Ca called Botanical Preservation Corps. Damiana has strong aromatic leaves which are used in this tea. The fruits from damiana reportedly taste like fig! (I am really eager to get my clutches on some of those fruits) Damiana leaves alone are quite bitter and remind me slightly of sagebrush in aroma and pungent flavor. Damiana has traditionally been used as a nervous system tonic and aphrodisiac throughout Mexico and Central America. From my own experience, it has an amazing ability increase energy without feeling anxious. Because I get a sense of general wellbeing when I drink damiana tea, I like to rely on it for days when I feel low. On days or evenings when you need to talk yourself into getting a move on or need some motivation, have a cup of tea with damiana and you will be out flirting with the world in no time.
This blend is intended to be fun and uplifting and nourishing to the nervous system. The relaxing effects of passion flower and linden balance the potency of the damiana. Licorice root is an adaptogen herb, helps the body adapt to stress and supports immune system strength. I use licorice in many blends because it has been shown to be protective against adrenal fatigue. plus it adds a really nice sweetness that has an immediately soothing effect on the mouth and throat.
True cinnamon and clove are warming sensual herbs that may strengthen circulation. Rose hips add a kiss of tangy sweetness to the blend and provide a little vitamin C and antioxidants. Roasted cacao nibs add a subtle roasted character that help uplift and comfort.
Ingredients: Yerba Mate, Linden, Lemongrass, Peppermint, Yerba Santa, Elderberry, and Osmanthus flowers
Steeping Instructions: Pour 8 oz hot water over 1 tsp tea. Steep 4-7 minutes.
Sol Mate is a caffeinated blend that has a perfect balance of earthy, mint, fruit, citrus, and floral. This blend is really all about teasing your taste buds, providing wonderful play on the pallet.
The Mate hails from an organic mate company called Anna Park. I was able to meet the longtime owner of the company in Obera, Argentina. He was a lovely man whose family has owned this company for over 40 years. Here is a picture of the label from the Anna Park yerba mate and a mate plant on the edge of a farm in Obera, Misiones, Argentina.
Mate leaves are hand harvested from shrubs that are anywhere from 2 to 8 feet tall. Once the leaves are harvested they go through a short fermentation process then dried. Most of the mate you get in the US is cut and sifted, removing any stems and powders. The mate in Argentina is not sifted, it has bits of stem and very fine powder still in it, which is why the Sol Mate this month looks a little powdery. I think the mate in Sol Mate is very representative of the highest quality yerba mate grown in Argentina.
My honest experience of drinking mate in Argentina was that it was served way too strong for me. I am apparently a total mate wimp. A gourd is almost entirely filled with dried mate leaves and a small amount of hot water is poured over it. We typically drink tea at 1-2 tsp per cup, mate is made at about 12-15 tsp per cup, but steeped dozens of times. People might resteep and sip a single gourd of mate for many hours. Mate can be very powerful when served so strong. It effected me very cerebrally. I often felt dizzy with stimulation and jittery after sharing a gourd of mate with my friends. Mate is also bitter at that concentration so it fiercely stimulates digestion. Had it been winter I might have had a different experience and appreciated the effects of mate on my body. Most people in the summer actually drink their mate cold, steeped into fruit juice, which is quite delicious. But almost every time I was served mate it was hot because we had no refrigeration where I was staying.
Sol Mate is a really nice mate blend that has an aroma, flavor, and invigorating herbal action. Many of my customers come back again and again because they like Sol Mate so much. I have an affinity for the taste and aroma of this tea. From the moment you open the package to the moment the last sips are barely warm in the cup, there is so much subtlety at play. I am immediately swept away by the sweet floral fragrance of osmanthus, which tangles with the mint and lemongrass. There is a distinct herbaceous aspect of the tea that is typical of yerba mate. I often like to stick my nose over the tea and take really deep breaths til I feel sufficiently energized. Taking time to sit with delicately flavored herbal teas helps me be incredibly in tune the moment and happy. As the tea cools a menagerie of changing flavors captivate the pallet. Enjoy!
Yerba mate is characteristically bold in its energizing herbal action. I mellowed it out by adding the slightly sweet uplifting aromatic herbs peppermint, lemongrass, linden, yerba santa, elderberry, and osmanthus flowers. The linden and peppermint help balance the strong stimulating effect of the mate. I have said this many times before, whenever I create a blend with stimulating alkaloids (caffeine and theobromine in the yerba mate) I try to balance it with herbs that nourish and protect the nervous system.
Ingredients: Raw Cacao, Roasted Cocoa, Chamomile, Spearmint, True Cinnamon, Fennel and Cayenne
Steeping Instructions: Heat 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup milk in saucepan. Pour water-milk mixture over 1 tsp tea. Steep 5-7 minutes. Strain and add a small spoon of honey.
Many of you have tried versions of my chocolate teas before, Xocolatl is one of my Harbor Herbalist best sellers. I usually make Xocolatl exclusively with raw cacao because raw chocolate is much higher in nutrients and anti-oxidants. But this month I combined 50/50 raw cacao powder with roasted cacao powder to give you a more intense chocolate experience. It is my intent to capture the richness of the both the chocolate and the herbs in a way that enraptures your taste buds! I highly recommend drinking this tea with milk and honey.
The calming effects of spearmint and chamomile help create a soothing drinking chocolate experience. I enjoy a cup of Xocolatl after meals to satisfy chocolate cravings. This tea is much lighter and healthier than most chocolate snacks, so please indulge.
While I was in Argentina there was a chain of ice cream shops by the same name as this tea!!
The benefits of cacao are plenty, if you want to read more about Theobroma cacao (chocolate) here is an article I wrote two years ago when I first introduced this tea with my Bird’s Eye Tea customers. CACAO