A while ago I ordered some herbal tea at the Chez Panisse Café in Berkeley. The tea arrived in a large, clear, glass teapot, filled with green leaves and hot water. The tea was lovely – light, lemony, minty. After we finished it, my curiosity got the best of me and I started fishing out the leaves from the pot, wondering what was in this tea anyway? Our server noticed this odd behavior and quickly came to the table offering to provide us with fresh leaves. “These leaves here are mint, but what are these long green ones?” I asked. “Lemon verbena,” was the answer and she happily addressed my battery of questions about this herb. Lemon verbena is a bushy shrub that grows quite well in Northern California. It originally comes from South America, but has been cultivated in Europe since the 1600s. It has a strong lemon scent and is used to add a lemon flavor to many dishes. In anticipation of making my own verbena mint tea, I planted some this spring. True to expectations, the not-yet-a-bush plant is thriving. Here’s the method for making simple mint tea with lemon verbena:
- 1/2 cup of fresh mint leaves (not the stems, they're bitter), rinsed, lightly packed (about 20 leaves)
- 1/2 cup of fresh lemon verbena leaves, rinsed, lightly packed (about 10-15 leaves)
- 2 cups of water
Bring a pot of fresh water almost, but not quite to a boil. Put the mint and verbena leaves in a teapot. Pour the hot water over the leaves. Let sit for 3-5 minutes. Strain into tea cups.