Happy Spring everyone.  This winter seemed especially long, so I’m grateful that we’re transitioning seasons.  But before all common sense flies out the window, it’s time to remember to take care of the body.  First tea, then tank tops, if you know what I mean.  You don’t?  Well, have you ever noticed how many folks get sick around seasonal transitions?  Or how an unnaturally beautiful patch of weather in early spring leads to lots of extroverted behavior which leads to a hacking cough and calling out sick?  Right.  Here is your remedy…

Find these dry herbs at your local herbarium.   Put them in a pot, and boil the love out of them. I mean it.  One small handful of burdock root (Arctium lappa), one small handful of dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale), one smaller handful of orange peel (citrus sp.), plus 5 tongue depressor-shaped sticks of Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus).  Add some leftover elderberries (Sambucus nigra) that you find in the back of your cupboard.  Or perhaps you need to sweeten your mix up with some licorice or some cinnamon.  Channel your inner herbalist.

For each teaspoon of herbs, use 1 cup of water.  Once you have your water and herbs in a pot, bring the mixture up to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer away.  For the maximum medicinal benefits, cook these herbs for at least one hour.  Two hours if you’re nasty.  Strain, and drink hot or cold.  Sweeten with honey or another natural sweetener if you must.  Stash your leftovers in the refrigerator and drink throughout the week.

Why should you do this? Well, Astragalus mobilizes the immune system (kicking out lingering winter bugs), dandelion and burdock refresh and renew the liver (think of wringing out a washcloth) and perk up digestion in general.  (Remember the holidays?  So does your liver.)  Orange peel balances the formula and provides a Vitamin C kick.  This tea is your spring tonic.  Let these herbs literally “clean house” for you.  Your body will be ready for Spring in that classic “out with the old and in with the new” sense.  In Northern California speak, this tea will shift the energy of winter (1st gear) into second gear~the energy of early spring.  (You can’t go successfully from 1st to 3rd, can you?)

Enjoy the unfolding of the season…

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Here they are–your last-minute Hanukkah gifts and Stocking Stuffers…


Flower Power

Solstice Survival Flower Essence: I have customized this blend for the holidays, as they have a knack for bringing unresolved emotional drama to the surface.  Let this be a tool in your toolkit to help you handle the holidays with grace and authenticity.

1/2 oz. for $10.00




Elderberry Cordial: My family’s favorite for keeping the colds and flus at bay.  I use this delicious syrup as a preventative.  Elderberry’s immune properties are widely known and in combo with some other very special herbs this formula is a literal virus stopper.

2 oz. for $15.00


Elderberry Immune Tonic

Herbs meet Water:  Custom Herbal Infusions are lovingly blended for you to give as gifts.  Something special in mind to stuff that stocking?  Honey likes citrus but isn’t a fan of mints and she needs an energizing tea…no problem!   I absolutely love creating a tea for a specific person or purpose.   1 oz of custom tea is $15.00


Hands make tea...

Gift Certificates for Western Herbal Consultation and Reiki are always available in any dollar amount.

Please call 415-613-7010 or email me at wiseleafherbal@gmail.com to place your orders before December 20th, 2010.

May you have a very blessed, very loving holiday season.

Happy New Year!

kt

Words can be fertile ground…(a garden fairy tale come true.)

Some of you will remember a post about my friend Marion.   Marion and I were planting a medicinal herb garden at her home in Piedmont, CA this spring when she passed away suddenly.  This was a very sad happening, and her family wondered what to do with the herbs that she had planted.  There was much consternation, and then her husband Zafiris said the magical words “Take them away.  I don’t know what to do with such things.”  Really?!?  (Tears watered the soil beneath Marion’s oak tree.)

And so I bravely dug those happy plants out of their home dirt, and ferried them across the Bay Bridge to land in their new location–an under-utilized garden in the Inner Richmond.   A vast landscape of quick-draining soil, amended with homemade compost.   Hip hop music blasting in the background.  Old relics of the past garden lying around.  Woodchips from the trees that used to stand on site.  In other words, a blank canvas, a new beginning.

Forgive for a moment a narrator’s interruption:  I want to be clear.  I’m not the hero of this story.  I’m just the dopey sidekick.  The plants are the brains.  And despite all the unpredictable variables of their new destiny, and in spite of the gardener within that keeps saying “we’ll see…” they are looking really good!  Like sticks of a plant, with brand new basal growth where dirt meets aerial parts!  New growth!

And this gardener is so happy I could spit.  Honestly.  I’ve been waiting for this moment for such a long time:  sunny San Francisco location meets herbal medicinals.  An herb garden of my own!  To share with others, eventually.  First we’ve got some growing to do.

Sticks and stones get moved around to host Solidago, and Chamomile, Blue Vervain, and a ton of Grindelia…

Take a peek.  It may not look like much, but come next Spring and Summer, these baby plants will be usefully engaged in soothing your sore throats, calming your fried nerves, and pepping up your tired bones.

For now they look like sticks among the stones.  We are moving toward the winter solstice.  It’s cold and dark, it’s raining.  But eventually the rains will stop.  And then the plants will be lush.  And I’ll pick some of their leaves, and make you a tea.   See?

A deep thank you to Mary and Ted

 

Sweet and Spicy Herbal, Caffeine free…


“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.”   Horace Walpole

I’m not really sure how to take this little quote that I found dangling from the end of my tea bag string.

In fact,  I don’t think I believe  it.  However, I do believe in this particular tea.  All the Good Earth flavor, none of the caffeine.  A ‘Debbie Downer’ with all the richness of a caffeinated beverage.

I am going to overlook the “natural flavors” aspect for this post.  I still love this tea.  It is steaming with deep and lovely spices:  clove, cinnamon, fennel, ginger.  I feel these spices.   (And this is not a tragedy.)

Maybe you will too.

MOS?

That’s short for Mandarin Orange Spice, peeps…

…and this is the tea I most often find in my cupboard after my mother-in-law Karen comes for a visit.  Usually it just sits there patiently waiting for her as I bypass it to create my own herbal blends.  But the other day this orange and black box caught my eye.

The first thing I noticed was the painting on the front of the box–it’s simply lovely.  I feel like we tea drinkers have all seen it a million times, but take a closer look…

It's a little world in here...

I especially love Barry Zaid’s rendition of those peeled and segmented oranges at the bottom of the painting. Visual beauty is such a lure…

So I opened that standard tea box with the cute little packaging and the first thing I noticed was the smell..that tea bag smelled good!  Orangey, but also like chicory and cinnamon and hibiscus flower.  And all together they create that characteristic MOS smell and flavor.  It’s memorable.  It reminds me of my early tea drinking days in college…dorms, 11pm, mulling over new-found politics.

I got excited.  There is such a charge, a thrill involved with remembering sometimes…

I quickly poured myself a cup, but didn’t let it steep too long–maybe about 3 minutes.

The result?  NICE!

So I still really like this tea…it’s a good balance of roots and berries, earthy and sweet.  The hibiscus of course gives it the Celestial Seasonings “zing”, but it’s countered by the blackberry leaves and the chamomile.  It’s not a simple tea, but it’s not trying too hard either.   The other Celestial “Zingers” I could turn away from and not look back, but I’m glad I rediscovered Celestial Seasonings Mandarin Orange Spice.  I honestly can’t believe I forsook it for so long.

www.celestialseasonings.com/products/detail.html/herbal-teas/mandarin-orange-spice

MOS=Most Optimal Seasonings tea bag so far...

Ambiguous...

Help.  I really want to like this tea.

I have enjoyed other delicious blends by Organic India whose focus is Tulsi or Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) infusions.  Perhaps now is the right time to give a shout out to my favorite one called Sweet Rose Tulsi Tea…it’s REALLY GOOD.

But back to the Jasmine Tulsi…

Let’s talk about the main ingredient of this tea.  Tulsi or Holy Basil is first and foremost a sacred medicinal plant.  I really could yarn on about this plant, but the important take home points are as follows:  Tulsi is a major stress reducing, immune system regulating, antioxidant, neuroprotective plant.  It also has numerous digestive health benefits, it’s antibacterial, and stimulates milk production in lactating women.  And the list goes on…(really.)

A brief history:

Tulsi (a Hindi word) is used daily by many people throughout Southern Asia, especially Southern India. Holy basil is sacred to the Hindi god Vishnu, and purported to balance the chakras. The stems of the plants are made into beads for use in meditation practice to give clarity and protection.  It is acclaimed  as possessing sattva (energy of purity), “capable of bringing on goodness, virtue, and joy in humans” (Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief, D. Winston and S. Maimes.)

You all want a cup, huh?

Tulsi’s flavor nature is sweet and spicy.  Standing alone in water it is strongly aromatic.  As you might expect with the presence of the aromatics, it has a slightly allspice-ish clove-ish mouth numbing tingle, but somehow still manages to be delicately earthy and sweet.  It’s a balanced, complex taste, and smelling it  not only reminds me of many things, it always makes me feel better.   For instance, my brain goes to this place:  Nighttime with only the darkness and the stars, dew, bliss, the smell of (friendly) wild things… It’s a cross between walking barefoot through my childhood garden and smoking my third or fourth cigarette…and then realizing I don’t need to smoke cigs to deal with my angst-ish feelings…I’m six, then I’m 18, and the memories keep tumbling but somehow emotionally resolve…

I know it sounds outlandish, but it’s one of those plants that can transport you somewhere else.   It’s  a complex plant for a complex world.  I’ve got great expectations…

I want to cross the word "Jasmine" off this package...

So like I said earlier, I really want to like this tea, but what’s really bugging me is that I can’t smell or taste the jasmine. (And that’s the title of the tea.)

I think the problem is the Anise is too strong…I get the bitter of the chamomile, especially after a longer steeping (5 minutes plus).   I try an overnight cold infusion, which yields a slightly more refreshing cup, but still can’t find the Jasmine.  I try short hot infusions–no James Brown.

I check myself for a moment:  am I looking for that JB hip pop Jasmine taste and smell I get from my favorite green Jasmine tea?  If so, is that realistic?  This tea does smell nice and taste nice too…it’s not that it’s a bad tea…

I suspect the anise was probably added to sweeten this blend a bit, but it’s too heavy.  It completely masks the Jasmine, and I am simply sad.  I honestly think they would have had a better blend if they had left it out altogether.  Either that or just PLEASE RENAME the tea.  It’s not Jasmine Tulsi tea, it’s Anise Tulsi tea.  Or something kindred.

Try the Sweet Rose Tulsi tea instead…

Introducing:   Steep of the Week.

Here’s my concept…

I am committing to “review” one tea bag or loose leaf “tea” per week that is commercially available–taste, color, aroma, packaging, all being observed and considered.   The word tea is going to be loosely defined–I love love love green teas, but lately I have a tea dream to create delicious herbal infusions, so that is going to heavily influence the progression of teas tasted too.  The goal is to be diverse in my tasting–begin tasting what is at home and at hand, then move out from there….herbal, blacks, anything root or petal infused is fair game.

What qualifies me to do this, you might be asking? Are you a trained culinary professional?  Do you have a family member in the tea business?  Do you or have you ever worked in a tea house?  The answer to these questions is a resounding no.

But I do pay attention.  And I am always clutching my mug of tea, whether I’m playing a game of kickball or digging a hole in someone’s back yard.  Ok, ok not always possible, but it’s nearly always an arms length away.  I’ve also lived with a culinary professional for the last 7 years and that’s got to count for something.  He has taught me a thing or two.  (Thanks Nate.)

I also create custom teas for my herbal clients–I try to make them tasty, well-balanced, and infused with healing vibes.  Tasty is important so that folks will drink their medicine and enjoy the herbs that are helping to heal their health condition.

And so, without further ado, the Steep of the Week is Jasmine Downy Pearls compliments of Peet’s Coffee and Tea.

“What is that you are drinking?” is the inevitable question I get when folks smell this tea.”  I see their enchanted eyes…

The aroma of the jasmine flowers is lightly floral, a scent that drifts easily like the rain clouds I’m watching pass over twin peaks right at this moment.

This tea tastes round in my mouth, mellow, like flowers, not bitter, clean rainfall, green earth, minerals, barely sweet, barely astringent.

It tastes to me like life is just perfect right now, which I suppose is why I keep coming back again and again.  This is my daily tea.  I go out of my way to gather this tea.  I always take it “to go” so I can have my hands on the bag of orbs and steep it again at home, up to three times more…

I wonder how many sets of hands it took to get each individual cup of tea here, sitting in front of me?  This is in fact a hand rolled tea from the famed Fujian Province, China.

I keep thinking the responsible thing to do would be to find a local product for daily consumption, but there is something important to me about drinking and smelling this tea that has touched so many hands on its journey around the globe.  At this point in my life I need to feel the vastness and bigness of the world…this tea does just that–it is comforting and heavenly.  Sky and earth in one cup.

A deeply sincere thank you to all the hands that have made this cup possible. Heartily recommended.  kt

Check it out in more detail at Peets.