A white teapot filled with sprigs of fresh mint steeping in hot water. That’s all there was to the pot of fresh mint tea served after dinner at the original West Hollywood Spago. Fresh, vibrant and perfuming the air with its invigorating fragrance. You’d think it would be oh so easy to duplicate. You’d think. Yet, I’d been unsuccessful for years. Every time it came out differently. Sometimes the mint tea would be oddly flavored, other times too strong or not strong enough. Though, as of 2½ weeks ago, I can now claim success.
The weather report forecast a nighttime low of 28 degrees. Time was short for my two gorgeous pots of mint growing on our front porch. We took the pots inside for the next couple of nights. The more I looked at all those deep green mint leaves, the more important it became to make something with them while they were still in their prime. I decided to give fresh mint tea another try.
This time I went about it more methodically. Dutifully recording how much mint to how much water, at what temperature and for how long. After the third attempt I got it right. So right I decided to serve cool fresh mint tea during lunch in my next cooking class.
The best testimonial came when the woman next to me asked for the recipe 😉 And just now when my husband tasted the tea in this whimsical Clownfish cup and said “this is really good.”
A symbol of hospitality
“Mint has also come to symbolize hospitality in many cultures. In ancient Greece, mint leaves were rubbed on dining tables to welcome guests, while in the Middle East, the host still traditionally offers mint tea to guests upon their arrival.” World’s Healthiest Foods
Fresh mint tea is considered a digestif. After a very filling meal a digestif such as hot tea (or something alcoholic) warms the stomach. Warmth in the stomach is thought to increase blood circulation, helping to ease digestion and soothe the stomach and nerves.
A good time to share this recipe with you, as you begin thinking about Thanksgiving, perhaps the most filling meal of the year.
What’s in a name
Yes, most of us just call this tea. However, when making this beverage with fresh herbs rather than the cured leaves of Camellia sinensis it is perhaps more correctly known as an herbal infusion. Then there is also tisane (pronounced ti-ˈzan), the French term for a restorative herbal tea.
Now that I’ve learned the differences, I may begin calling this herbal tea an infusion or a tisane. Which name do you prefer?
The last of my garden mint
After a number of harvestings, my plants look rather bereft of leaves. And with fall’s cooler temperatures, they’ll not regain their summertime glory. Both mint plants have given generously of their precious leaves throughout the summer for many bowls of Tabouli and Greek Salad and now for Fresh Mint Tea.
More tea/infusions/tisanes to enjoy
- Lemon Verbena and Mint Tisane from Williams Sonoma.
- Traditional Levant and North African Mint Tea from Dimah Sharif.
- Other popular tisanes include chamomile, jasmine, hibiscus and rose hip.
The simplest of recipes for one of the garden’s most fragrant of herbs.
Both the milder spearmint leaves and the stronger peppermint leaves, or a combination of both make a delicious tea/infusion/tisane. Server either hot or cold.
Especially lovely served in this very special Clownfish cup saucer and spoon 😉
Update: This amount of fresh mint actually makes about 8 cups of refreshing mint tea. After you’ve steeped the mint, strain it and add another 4 or more cups hot water or ice and cold water.
Makes about 8 cups Printer-Friendly Recipe
Start to Finish 15 minutes, including 10 minutes for steeping
1¼ cups fresh mint leaves removed from their stalks, measured without packing
3¼ cups water
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Stir the mint leaves into the boiling water. Cover the pot. Turn off the heat.
- Steep 10 minutes.
- Pass through a strainer.
- 5. Add an additional 4 or more cups hot water or ice and cold water.
- Enjoy hot or cold.