“Would you like an adventure now, or shall we have our tea first?” Peter Pan
I started drinking tea while I was in Junior High. I didn’t like coffee, but drinking hot tea made my friends and I feel very grown up. We would get our parents to drop us off at the local mall (do kids still do that? Is it still a safe thing to do? I worry about things like that now. So sad.) and we would spend the afternoon wandering around, eating gyros, trying on clothes and doing mini fashion shows for each other, looking at the funny cards in the Hallmark store, costume jewelry, figurines and stationery supplies. I remember wax and seals were really popular at that time.
Anyway, after all that “shopping”, which probably annoyed the store employees since we rarely had money to buy anything, we would head to Hickory Farms to grab a handful of free samples (yes, we may be the reason stores don’t do that as much anymore!), and go to a café to order hot tea. With cream and 3 teaspoons sugar (my teeth hurt now at the very idea of it), tea was SO sophisticated!! My mom finally allowed me to drink tea at home (I was already 5’9” in junior high, so it certainly wasn’t going to stunt my growth!) and I was hooked.
Fast forward to high school. My sister went to college in Bozeman, MT – a wonderful college town with lots of eclectic shops. I took a Greyhound bus to visit her one weekend, and she took me to the downtown shops. My strongest memory of that visit was a tea store that sold loose herbal teas by the ounce. I was in awe!! I bought chamomile, a blend of rosehips and hibiscus, and peppermint. And I was hooked!! I stretched those teas out for as long as I could and was truly sad when I finally finished my last cup. Remember, this was in the late 70’s, when these teas were not readily available in the local grocery store, at least not in our little corner of Montana.
As an adult living in Tennessee, I discovered gardening. My how I love my dirt therapy every year! Then I found a packet of chamomile seeds somewhere. I could grow my own tea!!! And I did, for years. I often saw mint plants in stores, but it was spearmint, which I don’t like, instead of peppermint. I realized at some point that I could order peppermint plants and I read up on the benefits of my two herbs. Along the way, I discovered calendula. I think I may have seen it listed as an ingredient in a tea blend I bought somewhere – they are now so readily available! I am a great researcher, and learned all I could about these 3 herbs, bought my seeds and plants, and the rest is history. This blend, chamomile, peppermint, and calendula has been my calm and relaxing tea for more years than I can remember. It is the blend that started it all, and it is still my favorite.
When we bought our house and property in southern Indiana 4 years ago, one of the first things we decided is where my garden would go. We have a lot of old, large trees that block the sun around much of the house, but the rest of the property gets a fair amount of sun, so we picked our spot and the work began. I had my tea herbs and cooking herbs also growing in the veggie garden, but it’s a fair distance from the house, and herbs need to be picked more frequently than most veggies, so last year we put in an herb garden close to the house. I expanded it this year to put in hibiscus plants so I won’t have to order that wonderful ingredient! And I’ve been able to add other fun herbs like chocolate mint (yay!!) and catnip, plus cooking herbs like oregano and rosemary which add interesting flavors and health benefits to other tea blends.
When I started Good Food Dear Friends this past May, the idea was great tasting products with healthy, safe ingredients. Around the middle of June, I asked some of my fellow farmer’s market boothmates about my herbal teas. The response was unanimous – yes!! That would be an excellent addition to my business! I did more research (did I mention I ROCK at research?) and found recipes and suggestions for additional tea blends. I did have to order some ingredients – my hibiscus plants won’t produce until next year; I got them too late for this year, I don’t have access to rosehips at this time, and I’m VERY allergic to lavender, so I can’t grow it. But it’s such a popular tea ingredient, I use an allergy mask when I work with it – but I make sure all purchased ingredients are organically grown, and I’m enlarging my herbal garden to include more home grown products next year.
So my Ladies in Literature teas were born. Sorry to do another 2 part blog, but I wanted you to have complete confidence in my process and ingredients, so I felt the backstory was important. Next time I’ll describe my teas and the literary characters they are named after.
Until then, enjoy a warm cup of tea and some good food with your dear friends.