What is it about a cup of tea that makes it so relaxing? Just the thought of a hot mug between your hands, the steam gently wafting up as you take a sip, is enough to bring a sense of Sunday-morning calm to an otherwise hectic day. A box of tea picked up from the grocery store can do the trick, but you can also seek out specialty blends at a local tea shop, where you’ll find an array of loose-leaf teas and tea bags made with seasonal herbs and designed with tranquility in mind.
At Homegrown Herb and Tea on Congress Street in Portland, owner Sarah Richards specializes in custom herbal tea blends, including seasonal blends that use ingredients typically found at that time of year and have healing properties. For example, Sarah points out that the fall can be a particularly stressful time for all of us—with the change to cooler weather often comes new careers and schools and other changes—so we could all use some calming energy. And teas containing calming herbs can be a great way to boost immunity, too, especially in the fall and winter seasons when illnesses are typically on the rise. The use of herbs to heal and soothe the body is akin to eating healthy, fresh foods that are high in antioxidants, Sarah says.
Sarah’s recommendations for tea blends that combat stress and encourage a sense of wellbeing and relaxation include three groups of herbs. These herbs all have calming and restorative effects on the body: nervine herbs, grounding/sweet herbs and sedative herbs.
Grounding Sweet Herbs
Sarah’s Brewing Tips for a Perfect Cup of Tea:
Finding your perfect chill-out blend can be a fun tea-drinking adventure. Just choose a blend and start sipping. A local tea shop is a great place for recommendations (Sarah would be happy to brew you a delicious and restorative cup of tea, and she also creates custom blends for her customers upon request) and to try something new you won’t find at the grocery store. And at Homegrown Herb and Tea, you can sit back in the cozy shop with a hot cup of tea, light snacks and soups. Now that sounds relaxing.
Herbal infusions should be allowed to brew 3-5 minutes to achieve the full flavor and therapeutic effect. The water should be brought to a full boil before pouring (the boiling point is 200 degrees).
Black tea should not steep longer than 2-3 minutes and should be brewed with water that is at least 185 degrees.
Green tea should steep for 2 minutes with water no higher than 180 degrees.
White tea is the most delicate and should be steeped for 2 minutes with water between 165-180 degrees.
Sarah can be reached at 774-3484 or she can be found at her shop, Homegrown Herb and Tea at 195 Congress St, Portland.