Recently I was involved in a food fair at our local Co-op. I ran the tea blending booth to highlight the bulk section of our store in an interactive way. I expected a large crowd and planned accordingly with a plethora of herbs and spices to mix in participants’ unique tea blends. What I didn’t expect was how many kids came to try it out, and try it out again and again. And they were serious about it! They would mix the loose tea, make a cup to drink, check with me on brew time, wait somewhat patiently, and then taste and chat about what they liked or didn’t like. The middle-school age range were my most frequent customers, but I had shy little ones guided by their parents, and a few groups of giggly teens as well. If you are looking for a rainy day activity, a way to explore new tastes with a finicky child, or a good gift idea, here you go!
Most of your tea blend is your base, the rest is for flavor. Since this is an experiment in taste, try very small batches at first: 2 Tablespoons of your base with a sprinkle of 2-5 flavors. Once you have a blend you like, up the amounts. One cup to drink is about 1.5 teaspoons of loose tea. For herbal blends, brew at least 5 minutes. You can use a tea strainer for loose tea (there are a lot of fun ones) or disposable tea bags. If you don’t have a bulk department in your grocery store, loose tea can be found in some grocery stores alongside the bagged boxes of tea. Online ordering is easy too!
STEP ONE: Choose The Base
Black, Green, and White tea is all from the same plant: Camellia Sinensis. The difference is in the processing stage of tea production. This effects the caffeine level: black has the most, then green, and finally white. There are many (many!) cultures around the world where tea is consumed daily by children, but there are very few studies that have looked at the effects of caffeine and children, and there is no need to add it to their diet when there are other options for this fun cooking craft.
Rooibos, also called Red Bush tea, is a plant from South Africa and contains no caffeine. It has a subtle flavor that is perfect for blending. Chamomile is more than just a sleepy time tea, it has a lovely flavor that can be enhanced with other spices. Peppermint is strong as is, but it is fun to play around with other robust add-ins.
STEP TWO: Adding Flavors
Look in your spice cabinet and see what you already have before buying anything. There really is no limit to the creativity at this step. You can have whole ingredients or powder. If you want to add liquid flavor (vanilla extract for instance) be sure to let it dry out (12 hours) before sealing it up in a container or baggie.
STEP THREE: Name Your Blend
This is almost as fun as making the tea. Think about the names of lipsticks. “Fly Girl” and “Fire and Ice” are much more interesting than “Red” and “Dark Red.” Your child can name their blend anything they want, but encourage some creativity. My nieces and I had fun with a new blend of peppermint and lemongrass with random other stuff thrown in. We came up with “Sweet McMint.” Why? Because to make the label, I found a plaid card stock reminiscent of a Scottish tartan. You could also start with this step as a way to generate ideas for the flavors. What kind of tea would Spider-Man drink? What about a Harry Potter house blend? What is their favorite TV show, and what kind of tea would go with it? Don’t forget to write down the ingredients!
Not sure how to begin at all? Here are some blends to try. Then tweak to make them unique:
Rooibos base: cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorn
Peppermint base: licorice root, cacao nibs
Chamomile base: cinnamon, vanilla extract, coconut flakes
Comment on blends you come up with; I’d love to try them out!