One of my favorite things about cooler weather in the winter months, even here in the perpetually sunny desert is my endless crock of hot tea. It is so nourishing to have a steaming cup of hot herbal tea available at any time day or evening, and it is so much easier to brew up a large crock of tea, that lasts days and days, than having to make single cups or quarts every time I want a nourishing infusion or cup of spicy Chai.
The endless crock of tea is a simple thing really- and can be done by anyone at home. The only thing you need a small (1.5-3 qt) crock pot (I found an old fashioned one from the 80’s at a thrift store for about 5 bucks, but you can get a new fangled one at a kitchen store if you like), and spot on your counter devoted to your tea crock. And herbs of course.
This is the simplest way to extract the maximum amount of minerals out of nourishing herbs, and full flavor of spices, hard roots and berries, and get your daily intake with little effort. The endless crock of tea is not as appropriate for very delicate flavored leaves and flowers, but they shouldn’t be excluded out of hand. Just realize that their flavors will change and dissipate much more quickly that the heartier roots and berries and spices.
Basically I just toss in handfuls of whatever herbs I’m feeling called to at that time, fill the crock with water, and then leave on low for several days. After about 4 hours you can start dipping into the crock with a ladle and tea strainer, and serve up a steaming cup of your tea blend for yourself, guests or family. When the water level in the crock goes about halfway down, I just refill the crock with more water. This water will infuse with the goodness of the herbs continually being warmed, and continue to make a flavorful brew. I can go on the same crock of herbs and water for about 3 days, depending on how many times you refill the water. You can always add a handful of herbs to refresh the brew if you like.
After 3-4 days of being on low, and being refilled once or twice a day- I turn the crock off, cool, and empty the herbs out into the compost, and start again with a fresh batch of herbs and water. Changing up the flavors as I wish, or just a fresh batch of herbs.
This technique lends itself best to hearty plants that are good for supporting the body in the winter months.
Here are my favorites:
Astragalus, Licorice, Chaga, Reishi (small quantities as it is very bitter), codonopsis, ginger, burdock, roasted dandelion, cacao nibs, cinnamon, clove, star anise, black pepper, cardamom, allspice, nettles, oatstraw, elderberries, hawthorn berries, orange or lemon peel or slices, small amounts of coffee (ground), green or black tea, coconut flakes, vanilla, sassafrass, fir or pine needles, toasted nuts (hazelnuts or acorns are luscious).
Sometimes I include more delicate flavors like rose, peppermint, jasmine, lavender, linden, mallow etc, but I know they will fade first in flavor with continued heat and refills.
This is an excellent way to make an immune boosting winter chai- complete with honey and milk.
Crockpot Immune Herbal Chai
For a 2 qt crock add the following
2 tbsp cinnamon chips or 2 sticks
3 tbsp ginger root, dried
1 tbsp cardamom
1 tbsp allspice
1 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp roasted dandelion root
2 tbsp burdock root
1 tbsp licorice root
2 tbsp astragalus root
1 tbsp codonopsis root
1 or 2 slices of reishi mushroom
1 c dried nettles
1/2 c tulsi basil (if you wish)
Dip in with a ladle and serve in mugs, swirl with a spoonful of herbal honey, and a dallop of cream, coconut milk, almond milk and spoonful of coconut oil or butter/ghee.
Cacao Blend Crockpot Tea
1/2 c cacao nibs
4 fresh orange slices or 1 tbsp dried orange peel
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp astragalus
1 tbsp licorice root
1 tbsp roasted dandelion or burdock root
1 tbsp star anise
1/2 c oatstraw
Hey, and not only is it good for your body to drink these herbs on a daily basis, it will improve your digestion to have warm fluids rather than iced beverages, and it will make your house smell delightful!
Happy Tea drinking to you all winter long!