While walking the streets of Aix-en-Provence, France, this spring I discovered a little tea shop filled with many amazing tea blends. I couldn’t help but buy a few of those delicious-smelling teas. However, after brewing a few cups, something was nagging me.

The teas tasted good but they didn’t taste like the actual ingredients I could see in the blend. I began to suspect they had artificial flavorings added to them.

This fall I went to another tea shop with my friend and fellow herbalist Cathy Skipper and we both immediately knew those fancy tea blends had artificial flavorings added to them.

Yikes!

So rather than buying expensive tea blends from tea shops that use artificial ingredients, I’ve been creating delicious tea blends at home. Besides enjoying the process of making delicious teas I know I am using the best quality ingredients. These will make fancy, beautiful and delicious DIY gifts.

Before we begin, here’s a bit about the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) and some of the benefits it brings.

Tea Plant

All the different teas such as black tea, green tea, pu’erh tea and white tea come from the same evergreen tree, Camellia sinensis. Each of these teas is processed differently to achieve the different types. Locations where they are grown and when they are harvested also play a role in their quality and taste.

Tea is arguably the most popular beverage in the world. It has shaped entire cultures and even fueled wars. Harvesting, processing and even making tea has evolved for thousands of years and is considered a high art form.

Tea leaves

When I was growing up, I simply thought of tea as a caffeinated beverage or something you drank heavily sweetened with ice on a hot summer day. But the health benefits of tea are astounding.

Rich in antioxidants, including catechins, numerous studies have show tea to decrease cancer risk, aid metabolic processes for weight loss, and support heart health as well as longevity.

In one dramatic study done by the French, tea drinkers were shown to have 24% reduced mortality rate over non-tea drinkers. They surmised this is due to the health benefits of tea and that tea drinkers seem to have healthier overall lifestyles.

Of course, tea is a stimulant and can be high in caffeine. Everyone reacts differently to caffeinated beverages so, as the saying goes, moderation in all things.

I know there will be some of you who avoid caffeine altogether, so I’ve also created some herbal tea blends without caffeine. One of them uses rooibos tea…

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What is Rooibos Tea?

Rooibos comes from a plant grown in South Africa (Aspalathus linearis). This popular beverage makes a red tea that is sweet, aromatic and caffeine free. Rooibos tastes great on its own but it also is delicious with other herbs and spices. When brewed it makes a beautiful red beverage and because of this it is sometimes referred to as red tea.

Tea Bags vs. Loose Leaf Tea

It is widely known that the poorest quality teas are used for tea bags. Buying bulk whole leaf teas is one way to get better quality teas. However, you still want to buy from a reputable company to ensure you are getting high quality tea. I also want my teas to be certified fair trade and organic.

All tea from the Camella sinensis plant contains caffeine. Since some people avoid drinking caffeinated products, I also included two herbal tea blends.

black tea leafs

How to Measure in Parts

Some of these tea blend recipes are measured in parts. I do this to give you flexibility in how much you would like to make of each blend.

To measure by parts, you simply choose whatever measurement you would like to be your part.

If wanting to make a very small batch, you might choose a tablespoon. Or, if wanting to make a larger batch, you might choose a cup.

Whatever your choice, just substitute it whenever the instructions say part. If using a cup, then instead of 2 parts, you would use 2 cups.

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Recipe #1: Orange Spiced Black Tea

This tea blend was inspired by the fancy tea blend I bought in southern France. At first I made a similar blend without the orange extract but the orange taste was never strong enough. Then I got the idea of adding the extract and finally the orange flavor popped out. As a result, the dried oranges in this blend are more about their beautiful appearance than actual taste.

To dry your own oranges, slice an orange into thin segments, lay them on a glass baking sheet and dry them on low in the oven. Turn them over every once in awhile. Once they are completely dried, cut them into triangle wedges as seen in the photo.

What you’ll need…

  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 cup Assam tea (or black tea of your choice)
  • 1 tablespoon rainbow peppercorns
  • Handful of dried orange slices
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon chips
  • 1 tablespoon cardamom pods, slightly crushed
Need organic herbs or supplies? Get them here!

Place the teaspoon of orange extract into a quart glass jar. Shake well to distribute the liquid all over the jar.

Add the assam tea, pepper, orange slices, cinnamon and cardamom. Shake really well.

Let this sit for a day or two to allow the extract to soak in to the tea and spices.

To brew: Use 1 heaping teaspoon per 8 ounces of hot water. Steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Strain and enjoy as is or with milk, cream, honey or sugar.

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Recipe #2: Vanilla Earl Grey with Cornflowers

I am admittedly very smitten with Earl Grey tea these days. This blend adds a vanilla flavor as well as some beautiful blue flowers to brighten up the mix.

What you’ll need…

  • 1 cup Earl Grey tea
  • 2 tablespoons cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus)
  • 1 vanilla bean, chopped finely

Combine all the ingredients together.

To brew: Use 1 heaping teaspoon per 8 ounces of hot water. Steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Strain and enjoy as is or with milk, cream, honey or sugar.

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Recipe #3 Forest Tea Blend

I was inspired to make this blend using Mountain Rose Herbs’ Ancient Forest Tea, which is grown “exclusively from stands of protected ancient growth tea plants in the Yunnan province of China, all of which range in age from 500 to 2,700 years old.”

To this I’ve added the resinous western redcedar leaves and the aromatic hawthorn leaves and flowers, making this a delicious forest blend.

What you’ll need…

  • 1 part Ancient Forest tea
  • 1 part western redcedar (Thuja plicata)
  • 1/2 part hawthorn leaves (Crataegus spp.)

Process the western redcedar leaves into small pieces. Combine all the ingredients together.

To brew: Use 1 heaping teaspoon per 8 ounces of hot water. Steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Strain and enjoy as is or with milk, cream, honey or sugar.

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Recipe #4: Smokey Pu’erh Tea

Pu’erh tea is a popular fermented tea that is highly prized by tea connoisseurs. This blend combines the fermented tea of pu’erh with the smoky taste of lapsang souchong tea. The chrysanthemum flowers taste good as well but are mainly added for appearance in this blend.

What you’ll need…

  • 3 parts pu’erh tea
  • 2 parts chrysanthemum flowers
  • 1 part lapsang souchong tea

Combine all the ingredients together.

To brew: Use 1 heaping teaspoon per 8 ounces of hot water. Steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Strain and enjoy as is or with milk, cream, honey or sugar.

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Recipe #5: Herbal Digestive Blend

This is a delicious tea that can be used to support healthy digestion or simply enjoyed for the taste. Licorice root may cause high blood pressure when taken in large amounts frequently. Those concerned with this effect might want to use stevia leaf or honey instead of licorice.

What you’ll need…

  • 1 part dried goldenrod leaves and flowers (Solidago canadensis)
  • 1 part dried lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)
  • 1 part whole hawthorn berries (Crataegus spp.)
  • 1/2 part dried ginger root (Zingiber officinale)
  • 1/2 part dried licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Combine all the ingredients together. (I recommend buying the above ingredients as “cut and sifted” with the exception of the hawthorn berries which work fine whole.)

To brew: Use 1 heaping tablespoon per 8 ounces of hot water. Steep covered for 5 to 15 minutes. Strain and enjoy.

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Recipe #6: Vanilla Rooibos Tea Blend

Rooibos is a delicious herbal tea that does not contain caffeine. It has a slight natural vanilla flavor that is augmented in this colorful blend.

What you’ll need…

  • 2 parts rooibos tea
  • 1 part safflower petals (Carthamus tinctorius)
  • 1 part Calendula petals (Calendula officinalis)
  • 1 part rose hips (Rosa spp.)
  • 1/2 part vanilla bean, chopped finely

Combine all the ingredients together.

To brew: Use 1 heaping tablespoon per 8 ounces of hot water. Steep covered for 3 to 5 minutes. Strain and enjoy.

Making These Blends as Gifts

These tea blend recipes can be used exactly as they state, or they could be the jumping off place for you to create your own tea blends. There are endless possibilities here!

To give them as gifts, consider putting them in brown tea bags, cello bags or even corked wide-mouth bottles. Be sure to include the ingredients as well as brewing suggestions.

Mountain Rose Herbs also carries a variety of tea accessories for brewing single-cup teas that would make a nice gift along with your tea blends.

Resources and Citations

Drinking tea reduces non-cardiovascular mortality by 24 percent, study finds
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140831125253.htm