Imagine you’re in the 19th century, you look down at your steaming cup of tea, it smells strong and there are fruity notes of red wine in your brew. You’re likely drinking Rosebay Willowherb tea. It was a popular drink in Britain at that time. Imported from Russia and called Ivan tea. The reasons it lost its popularity are unclear and once you try this tea, I’m sure you’ll agree there is no reason for it not to be popular today.
It’s fermented like regular black tea and has no caffeine. It is even very healthy for you too, with Vitamins C and A, it’s anti-inflammatory and helps digestion. I find making Rosebay Willowherb tea is very soothing, especially the rolling part. So, I encourage you to have a go. It’s really easy.
- Correctly ID the plant.
- Head out to an area where there is lots of Rosebay Willowherb.
- Be calm in yourself and ask the plants if you can use them.
- If you ‘hear’ a Yes then be thankful, if not find another plant and repeat.
- Run your hand down the plants stalk stripping the leaves off. Do this to plants that look healthy, not showing any odd bug marks etc.
- Leave most of the flowers for the bees.
- Once you’ve got enough for yourself (a bag full) grab some of the flowers too if you’d like to use some in the tea. I find they are quite pretty.
- Wash leaves. Leave to wilt.
- Rub a couple of leaves together between your palms. This will break down the leaf’s cell walls as we want the leaves to oxidize.
- Roll into balls. See picture.
- Place into a large glass jar, leaving space between the leaves. Cover with muslin cloth. Check multiple times every day to ensure there are no signs of mould.
- After 2-3 days, the smell will have changed to a richer smell. The leaves will be changed to a browny colour. You can now make a tea to see if you like strength of oxidation and taste. If not, then leave for another day and then taste again.
- Dry them in a dehydrator or on low in the oven making sure not to burn them.
- Put 4-5 leaves in per cup and enjoy your brew. They get better over time, so if you can leave them for a couple of months to mature, even better.