Greeks are coffee drinkers, viewing tea as something consumed for health rather than enjoyment. But there’s no rule that you can’t enjoy something you do for your health, now is there?
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Despite my own affinity for coffee, both hot and cold, I love all sorts of teas. I literally have a large drawer filled with boxes of various herbal tea blends, along with a hefty supply of different types of black tea. I have a handful of plants in my herb garden that I occasionally harvest to dunk into the tea pot, too. It’s the perfect beverage for a winter’s evening.
Though many will make all sorts of wild claims about the health benefits of some herbal concoctions, most are about as substantial as the steam coming off the tea. In other words, they’re a bunch of hooey, and in some cases, could even be dangerous. However, there may be something to back up the claims by your local Greek yiayia (grandma) that Greek mountain tea is one of those village “cure-all” elixirs. As it turns out, one of the other names that the Greek mountain tea plant goes by is ironwort, called that because of the high levels of iron in the plant. Drinking this could possibly provide a boost of iron which improves your ability to form red blood cells and deliver oxygen to your tissues. That’s a good thing.
Regardless if it actually does, Greek mountain tea is a lovely hot beverage. It has a flavor similar to chamomile, but a little more “earthy”. It is best with a little dollop of honey, and maybe a squeeze of lemon if you’d like. Do be sure to look for suppliers that actually grow or sustainably harvest the flower stalks, though. Unfortunately, as this beverage has become more well-known and popular, smugglers have been crossing the borders of northern Greece and ravaging the hillsides where the plant naturally grows in the wild. The environmental destruction has been great since the areas are being trampled and the plants are ripped out of the ground, leaving nothing to grow back.
Greek Mountain Tea Recipe
Greek mountain tea is usually sold as dried flower stalks, either whole or cut. You won’t likely find it in tea bags, and I would be a little suspicious of anything like that. Look for it in Greek delis, stores with a good herbal tea supply, or online. I find that for a typical teapot (about 6 cups), around 1/3 to 1/2 cup of loosely packed tea works well. You can always adjust to your taste. Put the tea in the pot and pour water that has just boiled over it. Cover the pot and allow to brew for 7-10 minutes. Pour the tea through a strainer and add honey and lemon juice as desired. Enjoy!
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