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  • Paul Tappenden

Tea Anyone?


Over the years, our basement has undergone changes to meet my ever growing need to explore the plant kingdom and its many powers. Today, it is a full on apothecary, where I dry my herbs make my tinctures, oils and salves and explore the fascinating world of herbalism. I call this place my "Hobbit Hole."

The time had come to tidy up and rearrange the Hobbit Hole , ready for the winter, so I found myself clearing off surfaces and fighting my way through the jungle of drying plants that hung in every conceivable place that they would fit. I felt it was time to jar up and label some of them before they ended up crumbling and scattered all over the floor. It is hard enough keep the area free of bits of dried vegetation as it is. I love the atmosphere of plants hanging to dry. They perfume the air and make the Hole feel more Hobbit-like, but there reaches a point when they need to be taken down and stored away for long term use. Besides, like me, they are beginning to gather dust and cobwebs.

A great thing about tidying my apothecary is that it presents me with all those various half completed projects, of which there are many. There seems to be a constant need to reorganize the place, which is always an issue when a small space serves so many purposes.

Tidying up reminded me that I’ve been promising myself the time to explore some tea blends that I have been considering. I have so many interesting herbs on hand, that I need to spend an afternoon creating teas. I want to make teas that suit my palette, whilst providing the fortification I need. I am no expert in the area of tea blends, but I do have fun!

When I first started out as an herbalist, I wondered how they came up with these herbal formulas and tea blends, but then I started to get to know the individual herbs and made note of their flavors and how they effected me. I suddenly found myself thinking “Wouldn’t it be good to combine these flavors?” or “I should add that herb, because I know it has this effect”, and before I knew it, I was creating my own blends.

I have my preferred ingredients, but my life as a forager dictates which herbs are available to me. I have a very good friend who owns a couple of apothecaries, so almost anything I could desire is available, but that isn’t the point. I limit myself to whatever is growing locally.

If someone else harvests it locally and gives it to me, that still counts. I’ll even accept gifts from around the country sent by other members of the community, but that has another whole meaning. Basically, I like to explore all that grows around us, that we see every day, like friends and neighbors. I am constantly amazing at the medicinal goldmine that lies outside our doors. All we need to do is make use of it, which I do.

Occasionally, during the past couple of weeks, down in my Hobbit Hole, I have been putting herbs into jars, ready for those fortifying teas I plan to create this winter, among them, I have

some tasty and potent gems like Sweet Annie, Anise Hyssop and Chamomile flowers. I add them to my teas to help improve flavor, but of course, each is its own medicinal powerhouse. Other herbs such as Sweet Goldenrod, Sassafras and Spicebush leaves, and some of the mints, all help to keep the flavors pleasant, yet add their own medicinal magic.

They are all sitting up there on my shelves, waiting to be called upon. I owe it to them to spend an afternoon or so, preferably with a friend or two, creating some interesting teas. A good winter project!

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