5 Home-grown tea tonic recipes

Nick Moyle and Rich Hood

Much of what we grow ends up being turned into booze, but we also like to take advantage of our harvests for some alcohol-free drinks and are especially partial to tea tonics: hot beverages that can help revive and restore a weary body and mind after a day’s hard graft digging on the allotment. Here are five of our favourites.

Mint tea

Let's start with one of the easiest and most refreshing home grown hot drinks. If you're planning on a Moroccan style tea then you'll needs lots of leaves, green tea and patience to carry out the long ritualistic brewing process.

We prefer a more direct approach—simply pluck a small handful of mint leaves, tear and scrunch them to get their oils on the move, drop in a mug and fill with hot water.

Once you’ve mastered this simple method, turn your attention to the rest of the herb garden for more teas. Lemon balm and sage are worth trying but we suggest you avoid garlic chives.

Fennel tea

Fennel tea is a popular beverage among new mums as it’s said to help with milk production, but it has many other benefits and is particularly good for digestive health.

Tea can be made from the roots and leaves, but the best bits for brewers are the seeds. Pick them when they’ve started turning from green to brown, give them a rinse, and dry them in the oven on a low temperature for around 30 minutes.

Use around a teaspoon of seeds per cup, crushing them first with a mortar and pestle, before putting in a mug filled with boiling water and steeping for five to ten minutes.

Nettle tea

We love nettles. We brew with them, we cook with them, and wildlife thrives on them. They also make a decent tea.

You can steep fresh nettles for a restorative brew—a loosely filled mug of leaves topped up with water should do the trick— but picking those stingers can be a bind, so you might prefer to grab a load in one swoop and dry them for future use.

A dehydrator provides the easiest drying method but you can also lay them out in an oven at a low temperature, or in a hot summer greenhouse. Pick the young leaves at the tips of the plant for the tastiest drink, making sure to give them a wash before drying.

Nettle tea is a delicious, calming beverage that can be served with a sweet drop of sugar or honey, to be consumed hot or chilled as a refreshing summer drink.

Blackcurrant tea

The blackcurrant bush is a versatile plant for tea-makers, with the leaves and berries providing many health benefits.

To use the leaves, roughly chop them and add two teaspoons to your mug of boiling water, steeping for five minutes before drinking.

To get the vitamin-packed goodness of the fruit you’ll need to boil a few teaspoons of berries first and allow to steep for 20 minutes before straining and serving. For maximum currant goodness, combine the two.

Dandelion coffee

This is more a coffee substitute than a tea, and involves a bit of roasting, but it's a fun, bitter brew worth trying and, apparently, is a good cleanser for the liver.

For this you need to dig up some dandelion roots (impetus to get weeding) and give them a good scrub—soaking in water for a few hours first will help. Chop them into evenly sized bits, lay out on a tray and slowly roast in an oven (around 200C) until thoroughly dry and turning a deep brown (check after 20 minutes and keep checking every five minutes thereafter).

Once cooled, store in an airtight container, grinding and brewing as you would with roasted coffee beans. Chicory roots can also be used to similar effect.