Tea is the world’s most popular beverage after water… and for good reason! Tea comes in multiple varieties and can have a wide range of health benefits. According to CBC News, Canadians drink almost 10 billion cups of tea annually, which is on average 83L of tea per person per year. I think it’s safe to say, Canadians love their tea!
However, many tea lovers don’t stop and think about what else is brewing in their cup. In a shocking 2014 CBC Marketplace segment, they tested pesticide residues in dry tea leaves of 10 of Canada’s most popular tea brands. The results were shocking: “Half of the teas tested contained pesticide residues above the allowable limits in Canada. And 8 of the 10 brands tested contained multiple chemicals, with one brand containing residues of 22 different pesticides. Some of the pesticides found — including endosulfan and monocrotophos — are in the process of being banned from use in some countries because of dangers to the environment and to workers.”
Research has now shown that pesticides have been linked to a wide range of human health concerns, from short-term impacts such as headaches and nausea to chronic impacts like cancer, reproductive harm, and hormone disruption.
At Affect Health we encourage customers to choose organic and/or wildcrafted loose leaf tea to help limit pesticide and toxin exposure. That being said, there is another option to stay in the clear… grow your own! Sound crazy? It’s surprisingly easy and fun.
5 Common and Easy to Grow Tea Plants
1. Lemon Balm
One of my favourite calming herbs, lemon balm is known to help soothe anxiety and insomnia, making it a perfect night time tea. We use it in our Nightly Zen blend alongside a few other relaxing herbs.
Grow: If you are planting lemon balm outside it needs to be contained before it spreads and takes over your whole garden. It’s a perennial, so plant it once, give it some love, and use it for many seasons! Can be grown indoors as well, pick fresh leaves for tea.
Great for indigestion and if you’re looking for a cooling and refreshing drink without caffeine, mint is a great herbal choice. It is also used to settle stomach indigestion, gas, and bloating.
Grow: Mint is a super low maintenance plant that even the blackest of thumbs can manage. Treat similar to lemon balm and watch out for it taking over your entire garden. Can be grown indoors as well, pick fresh leaves for hot or cold tea.
3. Chamomile (German)
A common favourite, this mild flavoured tea works well with peppermint to help settle stomach aches and indigestion. It goes well with lemon balm, a little honey, and a slice of fresh lemon for a good night’s sleep.
Grow: For tea, flowers are best picked as they start to bloom and dried in the shade. Sun drying can cause the volatile oils to evaporate and reduce health effects. Store dried flowers in a sealed container to use for later.
I LOVE jasmine; the beautiful little flowers have a gorgeous smell that adds aromatics to any tea and makes your home smell amazing. Jasmine tea also contains benzoic acetate, linalool, indole, and jasmine, all of which some say can be used to make aphrodisiacs (although this claim isn’t fully researched).
Grow: This is a warm weather plant that loves to climb, so if you have cold winters, grow it in a big container with a ladder or trellis and bring indoors. For tea, pick fresh flower blossoms.
Similar to our other soothing caffeine-free herbs listed above, lavender is well known for its relaxing qualities as well as its ability to help calm an upset stomach.
Grow: To keep things simple, purchase a small lavender plant from a nursery instead of trying to grow from seed. Once you have your little plant keep it in a sunny location. Be mindful not to overwater or add rocks/gravel in the bottom of the pot to help with drainage. Pick the fragrant flowers for tea but also amazing thrown into a relaxing warm bath!
How to Make Tea
Pick the herb’s leaves or flowers, then crush between your fingers to release the scent and flavor. Place 2 teaspoons of fresh herbs into a strainer or mesh tea ball, then steep in 8 ounces of hot water for 3-5 minutes or until the desired flavor is achieved.
Dry the herbs, and store in airtight containers. Steep about 1 teaspoon of herbs per 8 ounces of water for 3-5 minutes. Keep your teapots and cups covered during brewing to hold in the steam and herb oils.
For all plant seeds place in well-balanced soil, then water and place in a warm place until they sprout. Move your little tea plant babies to an area that gets at least 6 hours of sun/day.
Rotate plants often and check soil frequently to make sure it’s got the right moisture level for each plant. Watch for over watering!
Get creative and experiment with different herbal combinations but be sure to speak with an expert or research each type of herb to make sure it won’t interact with medication you may be taking.
Happy tea growing!