I love sweet tea in the summertime. Summer just isn't summer without a big pitcher of icy cold sweet tea!
I've grown spearmint the last two summers to use in my tea. Last year I would just break off a sprig of it and stick it in the glass with ice and tea. This year, I was planning on actually making tea from the mint itself.
I had watched Homestead Blessings: The Art of Herbs, (which was a really fun and informative DVD, by the way) and in that video the girls had made the tea by "kneading" large quantities of apple mint into water. This infused the water with the mint flavor.
So this is how I intended to make my tea this year until a friend of mine shared with me a very easy, quick way to make mint tea using my tea brewer.
You simply pick the mint and rinse it. Put the tea into the brewer basket using a round coffee filter (instead of placing the tea bags right into the basket.) I couldn't remember if she left the tea in the tea bags or not, but I decided to cut open the tea bags and put just the tea in the coffee filter.
I used three family size tea bags, which is what I always use to make three quarts of tea. On top of the loose tea, Lily and I tore the mint leaves into small pieces and placed them on top.
I ran water through the first time. Added more fresh mint to the mixture and then ran another batch of water through. (Note: If you own a tea brewer, the directions probably say to run water through one time and then fill the pitcher the rest of the way up with ice. I prefer a stronger tea so I always run two batches of water through over the tea bags. This gives me almost a full pitcher. I let it sit out until it's room temperature and then I add ice to fill the pitcher up the rest of the way. This makes a perfect strength in my opinion; I'm not fond of weak iced tea!)
When it was done brewing, I added one slightly rounded cup of sugar and mixed it in until dissolved. Then after the tea cooled, I added ice to fill the pitcher the rest of the way to the top.
This was so incredibly easy. So easy, in fact, that I will probably make my tea like this all summer long. It definitely beats kneading the mint over and over with my hands!
And it gives just the perfect hint of mint flavor. We don't really like a strong, over-powering mint flavor, but I suppose you could control the strength of the mint flavor simply by adding more or less mint leaves.
Now, who wants to come sit out on the porch and sip iced tea and chat?
Erica - If you're reading this, thanks so much for your tips on mint-tea making! This was so easy and so refreshing!
Notes on growing mints:
Mints are a great and hardy perennial (comes back itself every year) herb to grow. Here are some things I've learned about growing mints through my experimentation and also through book research:
* Mints are incredibly invasive and spread like crazy. If you're planting in an area with other herbs or veggies, plant the mint in a container and then bury the container in the ground. It will spread and take over the plot if you don't do this. Right now my mint is in its own pot, but my goal is to move it to a 3x6 or 4x8 raised bed next spring that is dedicated solely to mints. This way it can spread to full capacity and produce lots of yumminess for my teas!
* If you need an herb for a shady place, mint is a good choice. Most herbs do best in a full-sun spot, but mints are good shade herbs. Last year, I grew the mint in a container buried in my herb garden in full sun. It did awesome. This year it's in the same container only on my side deck which is covered and so the mint is in full shade all day, and it's still doing really awesome.
*Mints are pretty hardy plants. I love this about mint - it's easy to grow and hard to kill. Would be a good choice for those that think they lack a "green thumb."' A confidence-boosting plant for those who think they can't grow plants! Just remember to keep the soil moist (not water-logged) and your mint should grow prolifically!