There’s an old Zen story about tea. One day, it goes, a scholar sought the audience of a renowned Zen master, Nan-in. Pouring his visitor a cup of tea, Nan-in did not stop once the cup was full. He carried on pouring as the liquid overflowed.
Unable to restrain himself, the scholar exclaimed: “The cup is full! No more will go in.”
Nan-in replied: “Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup.”
Now, I’m not entirely sure of the story’s relevance to this post…I just wanted to share it. Perhaps we need to shed our opinions about tea, or something like that. Anyway, onto the plants…
Quick Note: It’s probably too late to sow these outdoors now (although you may get away with the lemongrass if you plant immediately) so consider starting them indoors, with the aid of a grow lamp.
Chamomile, pictured above, holds a special place in my heart. It was the first plant I grew with the intention of harvesting for tea. You can cultivate either Roman Chamomile (chamaemelum nobile), an evergreen perennial that won’t need re-seeding every year, or German Chamomile (matricaria chamomilla), a taller-growing annual that has slightly larger flower-heads.
Lavender can be used either on its own or in a blend…homemade lavender and chamomile tea…has a nice ring doesn’t it? They’re easy-growing, shade tolerant plants so will be perfectly at home in an urban or small-space garden and will usually grow quite happily in those less desirable spots (though they do need some sunlight). Just snip off the mature florets.
My own lavender plants tend not to flower prodigiously, and the main draw of the purple-tinged tea itself is in the rich fragrance, so I find it works best as an addition. That said, you can have it on its own.
Best known as a decorative flower, marigold also makes a lovely tea. Marigolds (calendula officinalis) are actually perennials but don’t tolerate cold winters well. Simply steep a single flower in boiled water.
Lemongrass can be grown year-round indoors. They’re nice-looking, shade-tolerant plants and will do well in a big pot. Harvest when the plant is 12 inches tall and use the thick stem for infusing the tea.