If you’re just embarking on your adventure in the wonderful world of herbalism, the idea of tea blend formulation might seem daunting. Or, maybe you’re such a creative soul, it seems like it will be a no-brainer of an endeavor? Well, I am here to tell you that…it can be both.
But fear not! That is what this post is all about. I have spent more than a year mixing up tea blends from others’ recipes, creating my own unique recipes, and taking herbalism courses on this very topic. Some of the tricks I’ve learned have come from experts’ wisdom, and many others have come from my own-trial-and error. Below I will share my favorite tips and tricks for developing your own herbal tea blends.
Tip 1: Try to stick to SIX ingredients or fewer.
I have discovered the hard way that too many ingredients can really muddle up an herbal tea blend. Sometimes, I just get too excited and can’t help myself, though! I feel like a funny old witch in a Disney cartoon, throwing a little of this and a pinch of that and the last dregs from that jar over there into the “cauldron,” my mixing bowl. But instead of cute sparkly puffs of smoke and fireworks shooting out, I am left with a weird tasting mixture that makes no sense. “Didn’t I put mint in here? I can’t even taste it!”
Don’t be afraid to have fun and experiment with your formulations. Don’t be afraid to follow your instincts and see where they take you. But try not to let them take you further than the six-ingredient mark. From my experience, if you add more than six different herbs, you begin to lose the ability to pick out the unique and special flavors and actions the different ingredients bring to the mix.
The big exception to this is with teas like chai. When you absolutely KNOW your ingredients have amazing synergy (HELLO cinnamon, anise, cloves, nutmeg, black peppercorns, allspice, cardamom, fennel…) you don’t have to be so mindful of not overdoing it.
Tip 2: Start with a theme, purpose, or base herb in mind.
It always helps to have a starting point. I find that a theme, a desired purpose for the tea to serve, or even just a base herb can be a great jumping-off point.
My personal go-to is to begin by thinking from a seasonal perspective. There is something very natural and hygge about living life according to the Earth’s cycles and seasons. I am almost always in the mood for an herbal recipe based around the season for that very reason. Is it the middle of the summer? A cooling mint and hibiscus sun tea on ice hits the spot. Has autumn arrived? A combination with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and chamomile would be warming and soothing. You can’t go wrong with a seasonal blend.
If you want to think beyond seasonal themes, some other starting points could be based around a particular purpose you want the tea to serve. Maybe you have a wellness issue you’d like the tea to address, such as digestion, anxiety, or even a cold. There are herbs exquisitely suited for all those issues and more! Or maybe you want to base your theme around a special occasion (birthday tea party?), a holiday, or even a book/film/person who inspires you. Another starting point could definitely be culinary considerations–you can base a recipe around a particular taste you are craving. Pumpkin spice latte, anyone?
Finally, a super simple approach is to just choose a base herb as your starting point. Maybe you have an abundance of lavender growing in your herb garden? Or, maybe you are writing up a page on lavender for your herb journal? So, you choose to formulate a tea around that.
Tip 3: Mint Chocolate Chip Milkshake with Whipped Cream Topping.
Huh? I thought this blog was about herbs and tea?
Sorry–let me explain. See, many herbal educators use a version of a pyramid visual to explain tea formulation: the base herb that is the main, well, basis for the blend; the middle supporting herb that works together with the base; and the top accent or catalyst herb that adds balancing flavor or action to the mix. I know this system, and it makes sense, but I’ve come up with my own spin that is a bit more fun and really easy to wrap your brain around and remember. Hence, the Mint Chocolate Chip Milkshake with Whipped Cream method!
Here’s how it works–the mint is the main, direction-setting base herb. The chocolate chips are the super-essential supporting herb that just works perfectly with the base-slash-mint. And the whipped cream on top, the icing on the cake so to speak, is the accent/catalyst herb that adds that little something-something. See? Isn’t that a fun and easy way to remember it?
Tip 4: Don’t overthink it…but also start small!
At the end of the day, if you overthink the whole process of herbal tea blending, it’s going to suck all the fun out of it. So, if all else fails, just forget the rules and tips and go with the flow. Don’t be afraid to try something new! But…maybe stick with making a small amount for the first try of your new blend in case you don’t like it. As a rule of thumb, I tend to make about three teacups’ worth of a new blend at a time: enough to try it a couple times to make sure it’s good.
And don’t forget to write your recipe down as you go! Otherwise, you’re left sniffing that last little spoonful you have left, going through the herbs and trying to remember what went into it. Not that I know from experience. Nope, that has never happened to me. Not once…
Tip 5: Sticking to others’ recipes and recipe books is a totally legit method!
Maybe creating your own herbal tea blends is just not an ambition of yours. Maybe using others’ recipes is more your speed. If so, that is totally fine! And it doesn’t make you any less of an herbalist than anyone who does formulate their own blends.
Think of it this way: I love baking. But do I invent all my own cake, cookie, pie, and bread recipes myself? No way. I do not trust myself to understand the chemistry of baking well enough to make up my own recipes. Heck, I often just bake things from boxed mixes! But I still feel great and accomplished after baking something, whether I wrote the recipe or most definitely did NOT. And you can feel that way, too, if you utilize recipe books or online herbalists’ recipes to mix up herbal tea blends or any types of herbal recipes! It’s not a competition. It’s just getting more people enjoying making things with their own hands, and putting that creativity and ingenuity out into the Universe.
So, tell me: do you have any other questions about tea blending? Are you more ready than ever to hear my reviews of recipe books and my own shared recipes here? Or are you ready to dive into the herb jar with both hands? (I guess it had better be a pretty big jar, if that’s the case!)