When I started the yearlong Homestead Herbalism class with Susan Hess in January I felt so so witchy, excited, tender, nostalgic, and hopeful. Sometimes when I start learning something new I feel overwhelmed with thoughts that I’m very behind and late to the party. In this case, I treated those thoughts with curiosity and compassion and remembered that I’m always in the right place at the right time.
I am enough. I have enough. I know enough.
Thankfully, Susan Hess is a seasoned teacher and her curriculum is both chock full of information and integrative from month to month. Our first entire class was devoted to tea but that’s a topic we return to in each class while enjoying a new concoction, iced or hot, made with fresh or dried herbs depending on the season.
First I learned the difference between infusions and decoctions.
Infusions are made with the the soft parts of a plant including flowers and leaves. Decoctions are made from the hard parts of plants, like the stems and roots. There are some exceptions (like dried, roasted dandelion root) but those general guidelines are a good starting place. Months after this first lesson, yesterday I came into alignment to make my own proper infusion.
Once you know how good tea can be, then you know, and you can’t un-know this magic again.
How to make a truly magical french press tea infusion from dried herbs:
- Grow some plants. Other options include making friends with people who grow plants (like I did, thanks Virginia!!) or connect with a store that sells high quality dried herbs (and skip the next step or two).
- Dry your herbs. Harvest a little bit of the plant at a time. A great way to dry herbs is in paper bags. The long bags that liquor stores sell wine in are perfect for drying out a few sprigs of any given plant. If it’s the end of the season and you’re trying to salvage a whole bunch of fresh plant material, a regular size paper shopping bag works too. Susan Hess blew my mind when she suggested leaving these bags in your car for a few days to dry out the herbs. Especially during the summer and early fall, a closed car acts like a vacuum seal oven and the plants get crispy in about three days.
- Process your herbs. Once plants are dry, strip the leaves off of stems.
- Get organized. Store dried herbs in glass jars with airtight lids. Label your jars with what kind of plant is inside. This is important! You think you’ll remember what’s inside each jar without labels, but you won’t. I already tested this out for you. Maybe learn from my mistakes.
- Design your potion. When it comes time to make your infusion, work with three herbs at a time so you can get to know how different plants taste and blend together without getting lost in a sea of a million competing flavors. Lightly crush and drop a handful of each selected herb into a french press.
- Let the magic happen. Cover with boiling water, pop the top on, and leave for fifteen minutes. It’s important that the lid is sealed so that the delicious and beneficial qualities in the plants don’t waft away in the rising steam.
- Enjoy. Pour the infusion into your favorite mug. Smell the tea. Smile. Drink.