Many herbs make excellent teas; we grew the following in Sunset's test garden. Most of these plants prefer full sun and well-drained soil (in hot climates, give mint some shade). Buy plants in 3-inch pots.
- Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum). This member of the mint family produces a light licorice flavor. It also attracts bees and hummingbirds. Sunset climate zones a3, 1-24.
- Bee balm (Monarda didyma). This herb makes a tea with a predominantly citrusy flavor ― a mingling of orange and lemon. Zones a2, a3, 1-11, 14-17.
- Chamomile. We planted the common ornamental chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile, a perennial), but flowers of German chamomile (Matricaria recutita, an annual) make a better-tasting tea. Zones 2-24.
- Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus). This is a tropical perennial grass with a zesty lemon flavor. Zones 12, 13, 16, 17, 23, 24, h1, h2.
- Mint (Mentha). Most members of this genus make good teas. We grew peppermint (M. x piperita) and orange mint (M. x p. citrata), but spearmint and 'Chocolate Mint' are tasty too. Zones a2, a3, 1-24.
Mail-order source for herbs: www.mountainvalleygrowers.com or 559/338-2775.
To prepare an herb tea, add boiling water to your chosen leaves. Start with 2 teaspoons fresh herb for each 6-ounce cup of water. Steep for 5 to 10 minutes. For stronger flavor, increase the amount of herb.