Is it not wonderful to warm up in the winter months with a hot cup of tea? In Greece we have some lovely flavors to choose from. Here are three of my favorite traditional teas:
Mountain tea – Τσάι του Βουνού
Mountain tea has always been and remains a popular herbal tea in my country. It comes from the plant Sideritis, a Greek word meaning as strong as iron. It is a plant with many uses: in Ancient Greece it was used to heal wounds, while my parents and grandparents would drink mountain tea to help their digestion, and also when they had a cold or a flu. Mountain tea has antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
The best way to prepare it is to boil water in a small cooking pan. Once boiling, lower the heat and place the tea plant into the water and let it simmer for about 5 minutes. Serve the tea with honey. I usually make a teapot full as you don’t need many branches; with just 2 or 3 stems you have enough for a delicious, healthy teapot full. The longer you leave the stems in the water the stronger the tea flavor will get.
In the summer we serve this tea with honey – hot or iced – at the Odyssey Bistro. We make the iced mountain tea by simply adding some ice to it when it cools down.
Chamomile tea – Χαμομήλι
The word means in Greek apples from the ground. From March to June chamomile grows in abundance on our farm. Traditional harvesting time has always been a week after Easter, when the properties of the chamomile are at their peak. We have to pick it up early in the morning, before the sun gains power.
In Greece we use chamomile as an evening tea that gives a relaxing feeling or to soothe a bellyache. We use it also to clean the skin, especially when it is irritated. When our baby’s have belly cramps we mix it with olive oil and massage it onto our babies bellies. Believe me, it works every time. Chamomile has anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. We prepare chamomile tea the same way as mountain tea.
Sage or Salvia tea – Φασκόμηλο
In Greece we infuse sage to make a nice herbal tea. However you can’t keep the sage for longer than 20 minutes in the teapot as the taste will become bitter and unpleasant. This sage herbal tea has been used since ancient years for its medicinal properties. In Greece we use sage in cooking because the bitter and smoky flavor of the leaves adds an interesting taste to dishes we’re preparing.
I personally love experimenting with flavors, and as much as I respect tradition I also love mixing flavors that are unusual to our traditional kitchen. My suggestions would be to try the sage leaves in combination with Lemongrass…
Whatever tea you choose, I hope it keeps you warm and happy!