Outside of water, tea is the second most popular beverage of choice in the world. Tea plants prosper in hot, rainy climates. This explains the water footprint of 5.5 gallons of water needed to cultivate the leaves in a single tea bag. The largest producer of tea is China followed by India and Kenya. I am a huge fan of tea. Especially upon learning that most tea is grown with green water. According to The Green Blue Book a handy resource for water footprint totals, nearly all tea is rain-fed.
I look for organic loose leaf teas. This simple action supports farmers who are NOT contributing to toxic runoff into fresh water systems. Chances are good that you have non-organic tea from China in your cupboard, I did. China, the largest producer of tea also happens to be the largest user of pesticides. Greenpeace earlier this year found banned pesticides in some of China’s most popular tea brands. One of the widely distributed brands I trust is Zhena’s Gypsy Tea. Zhena’s teas are organic and fair-traded. Look for the fair-traded label on your next box of tea. I write about why fair-trade is best for water in my post on chocolate.
Loose leaf tea minimizes waste generated by tea bags and plastic or paper used to keep the individual tea bag fresher. Loose tea purchased in bulk is cheaper. I buy a pound of loose tea for $10.00 which translates to about $.02 a gram. A box of tea bags (40 g) cost half as much but I pay about $.13 a gram.
Lately, I have skipped the tea and opted for tisanes pronounced tea-sanns. Teas are herbs that have been processed, dried or smoked. Tisane simply use air-dried or fresh herbs. I grow fresh herbs in my yard. My favorite tisane herb combination is lemon verbena and mint in equal parts. You can use many herbs including sage, chamomile, fennel, rosehip, raspberry leaves, and rosemary. A simple online search can give you more ideas and recipes. I offer you my favorite tisane recipe:
Fresh Organic Lemon Verbana and Mint Tisane
You can make this in a cup or in a tea pot (Choose glass or ceramic, metal will change the flavor of the herb). If making only one cup you will need 3 to 6 tablespoons of fresh herbs. I like to make a pot so I can drink hot tisane in the morning and ice for lunch. I cut a nice handful of both lemon verbana and mint (as pictured above). How much herb you use is all a matter of taste. If you find the flavor of your tisane to be too weak just add more herbs.
Remove the leaves from the stems and rinse thoroughly (water saving hint: I capture the water with a bucket in the sink and use the fresh water to water the herbs). Bruise the leaves and place in cup or tea pot. Pour boiling water over the fresh herbs. Sweeten with local honey to your liking.
Garden tip from a novice gardener: Herbs are simple to grow. Truly, if I can grow them anyone can. Herbs do well in pots but spread nicely when in the ground. Most gardening books will caution against placing mint in the ground because it will take over an area. I on the other hand want my mint to grow wide and vigorous. It means more herbs for tisanes.