I think that this year is the first that I'll actually have enough herbs to dry for herbal tea. The old garden adage -- the first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps and and the third it leaps -- is ringing true in our yard. It's the beginning of our fourth year in North Portland and plants that never before seemed to take a shine are going off -- namely the blueberries, raspberries, fruit trees and lots and lots of herbs.
I think we'll have enough lemon balm, mint, sage, thyme, valerian and other herbs to keep us sipping plenty of home grown and blended herbal tea for months. I recently read that the best way to dry herbs for tea is to take the entire plant or sections of it, leaves still attached, and tie it upside down so that the oil and flavor gravitates to the leaves.
I didn't learn this from Quinn and Katherine Losselyong of Portland's Foxfire Teas but I did learn a lot when I met up with them recently at their shop. Here are a few things that they told me while we shared a pot of Golden Yunan tea.
1. They like to use steeped Darjeeling and various green teas as a substitute for broth in risotto. 2. They met on a plane heading to Portland and were engaged three months later. 3. Their business is often referred to as Firefox Teas because people confuse them with the browser. 4. You can find Foxfire Teas in cafes as far away as Raleigh, North Carolina and Santa Barbara. 5. Marco Shaw of the much missed Portland restaurant Fife did some amazing things with their lapsang souchong (a smoked black tea) and duck.
After hanging out at Foxfire I met up with Tami Parr of Pacific Northwest Cheese Project at Tea Chai Te in Northwest. Not great planning on my part -- I think I filled up on my tea intake for the week in one day. Tami's book -- Artisan Cheese of the Pacific Northwest -- is hot off the presses and I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. We talked about the book, about her blog and about random things like our favorite Indian restaurant in Vancouver B.C. and why we both want to keep chickens.
Tami had an iced black tea (any of their teas can be iced) and I had a cup of the ginger pu-erh. If you haven't been Tea Chai Te is a really nice space nestled in the second floor of a beautiful old house. When we arrived at 3:30pm it was quiet but by 4:30/5pm it was almost full and there was a long line for steeped goods.
Please don't buy the terra cotta looking large clay teapot that's cut in half on the bottom right of the photo. I'm saving up.