There are many ways to make a great cup of tea. Usually, just dropping a bag of herbs into hot water is fine. Those who know their plants realize one brewing technique does not fit all. St. John’s wort flowers, nettle leaves or lemon balm leaves are excellent examples of deeply healing herbs that lose many properties when exposed to heat. To pull the most flavor without losing the healing properties of fragile essential oil encased within delicate leaves, cold infusion is your best bet. This is also an appropriate method for those who do not have the stomach for bitterness or astringency.
This is a basic procedure, not a recipe. Cold infusions are painfully easy. All it takes is a container, water, your favorite herbs and a little patience. This technique is effective for herbs that have strong flavors and for those that are delicate in texture. Mistletoe is an example of an herb that can best be served in a cold infusion blend since serving it in hot water extracts the toxins.
Cold infusion are perfect wintertime herbals because you just have to stick the jar outside for a night or two to trigger the process. The menstrum doesn’t have to be frozen solid to activate the infusion. Freezing does cut your processing time down and brings out more flavor in tougher herbs like ground coffee beans or dried blueberries. If you choose not to freeze it, check the strength of your infusion after the first night. People call a variation of this process “moon tea” because they set the jar out on a cold, moonlight night.
- 2 quart jars with a matching lids
- A finely meshed strainer large enough to catch a cup or so of material
- A funnel
- A cloth big enough to cover the quart jar
- Some freezer or refrigerator space or a spot on a chilly porch
- A label
Ingredients for making an herbal cold infusion:
- 1 cup of herbs
- 32 oz or so of water
- 1 tsp or so of extra flavorings (sugar, wine vinegar or honey for example)
Procedure for making an herbal cold infusion:
- Prepare herbs. Crush or grind the clean herbs to make it easier to access the tender goodness inside.
- Measure a cup of herbs into a clean quart sized jar.
- Add the non-herbal flavoring. Be careful with this because the freezing process will bring out more of the sweet flavors of the herb that you may be used to dealing with. Don’t let the sweeteners overpower your infusion.
our in the water until the jar is full. Do not fill the jar to the rim. Leave about 1 1/2 inch or more of room for the liquid to expand when it freezes.
- Attach the lid firmly.
- Shake the jar well.
- Label it.
- Expose it to the cold. If this cold spot is outside, cover the jar with a cloth to protect it from the light. If it’s in the fridge or freezer, place it close to the front of the door so it’s not forgotten.Frozen method: Once the liquid is solid, defrost it gently either in the fridge or on a counter with a bowl under it to catch the outer moisture. This method is also preferred by people who want to have wiggle room between making the herb and straining the herb. For example: St. John’s wort tea is best if fresh herbs are used. Since St. John’s wort has a brief harvest period in summer, cold infusions are a good way to save it for another season. Just defrost your St. John’s Wort or other herbal tea when you’re ready to drink it.
Non-frozen method: Let the infusion sit overnight in the refrigerator or outside in the cold. Taste test the infusion after shaking it to see if it’s strong enough. If it needs more time, give it another night.
- Place a funnel under the strainer in the second clean quart jar.
- Filter your herbs through the strainer directly into the second jar.
Storage and Use
Store your Herbal Cold Infusion in the refrigerator or another cool spot for up to three days or freeze it. Frozen, it will last for six months or more.
If you’re trying for an herbal infusion without bitter or tannic after tones, you may reheat the strained infusion to drink as a tea. Try cold infused fruit drinks as well. Peach slices with a stick of cinnamon makes a fantastic treat even if you don’t strain it. The possibilities are endless.