Is mint tea really a tea?
The word “tea” actually refers specifically to brewing leaves from the tea plant, also known as camellia sinensis. Therefore, if we’re to be technical everything else, including mint, is actually NOT a tea. So what do you call steeped mint, if it's not a tea? The term, frequently used term among the tea community, is tisane.
Personally, in order to shy away from being a complete tea snob, I would still call mint, and ANYTHING you can steep and drink, a tea. I'd perhaps go further and catogorise it as a herbal tea. Many other tea nerds and tea companies also do this, technically we're all wrong, but we're also not pedantic.
Whats in a name?
The word mint is shrouded in Greek Mythology. The story suggests that Hades, god of the underworld, tried to seduce a river nymph known as Minthe. Hades wife, Persephone, was outraged and so turned Minthe into a plant that people would walk over. Hades, in turn, was furious and gave the plant an alluring smell that would be released when crushed, to remind the world of Minthe’s presence and beauty.
There are actually over 30 different types of mint plant and many more hybrids, including strawberry, lavender chocolate and citrus. Typically the tea world focuses on two mints; peppermint and spearmint. If you’re drinking a mint tea, or even a mint blend, it will usually consist of one or a combination of these two.
History of mint
As suggested by the Greek mythology, mint is an ancient plant, thought to have originated somewhere in Asia or the Mediterranean. However, there is evidence that mint was widespread and used thoroughly throughout history.
Mint leaves found in an ancient Egyptian pyramid, carbon dated to 1000BC, suggest that mint may have been revered enough to carry into the afterlife. However, Romans and Greeks were more methodical. The Greeks used mint to clean tables and added it to baths, whilst the Romans cultivated mint, farming it for medicinal healing, cooking and apparently to also cover the ground, so that a pleasing aroma arose around the home, something that Hebrews also did in the Synagogue. After the fall of the empire, mint remained of common use for culinary and medicinal purposes, right through the medieval period and into modern day.
Properties of mint
Mint it thought to have a number of beneficial properties, this isn’t a new idea, our ancient ancestors seemed to be well aware of its medicinal uses. However, in modern day we can now scientifically pinpoint the healthy components and how they may benefit us.
Mint contains relatively high quantities of vitamins and minerals; Vitamin A (vision, immune system and reproduction), Vitamin C (bones, skin and connective tissue), Calcium (bones and teeth), Zinc (immune system), Copper (red blood and nerve cells) and Magnesium (energy production). However, the active component, that gives mint that elegantly alluring smell, is menthol.
Health & Wellness with mint
Oral Health: Mint is added so often to toothpastes, mints, gum and mouthwash that this benefit seems obvious! But aside from the pleasant smell, mint actually has antibacterial properties, therefore promoting better oral hygiene.
Headache: When applied topically to the forehead or temple, mint can soothe headaches. The menthol aroma reduces stress and temperature changes that can be associated with head pain.
Digestion: Not only is mint a great palate cleanser it also aids good digestion, having the ability to calm stomach irritations, particularly after a heavy meal, by improving the flow of bile for digestion. Some even say it can help with excessive flatulence!
Nausea: Again, mint has the ability to soothe the stomach, but it is also reported to have the ability of easing motion sickness.
Cold & Flu: More often than not, you’ll experience congestion, a tight chest and sore throat when you have cold or flu like symptoms. Mint can act as a decongestant and so may make you feel a little better by relieving your sinuses and respiratory system. Mint tea is also super hydrating!
Fatigue: Menthol is a natural stimulant, therefore mint can be really useful for those moments of fatigue, giving your body a jump start without any actual caffeine.
How to make mint tea
Making mint tea is super simple!
Fresh: Pick about 6 leaves from your mint plant (or else pick some up from the shop) and give them a gentle rinse under the tap. Particularly if it's an outdoor plant, as they tend to attract aphids. Place in your choice of tea cup or mug and pour water over the leaves. Let steep and you're done!
Dried: As dried mint leaves are fairly delicate, they will crumble easily and so the actual leaves will be smallish particles. For this reason you should use an infuser or empty/reusable teabag pouch to contain the mint. Once you have let the leaves steep to your taste, remove. This creates a smooth mint tea and you wont be trying to avoid little bit of leaves going in your mouth!
Organic Pure Mint| Shangri La
Product Details: 20 teabags (26g)
Final Thoughts: These tea bags will great you with an icy mint, leaving you will a fresh, cooling sensation. The quality of the leaf inside the tea bags isn't great, but it tastes good all the same.
Organic Peppermint Leaves | Tea Belly Teas
Product Details: 15g or 25g loose leaf
Tasting Notes: An obvious aroma of strong mint, mentholating through the senses so much you can taste it in the back of your throat. Obviously, nothing beats fresh mint (Sorry Tea Belly), but dried mint is an acceptable second, especially when the leaves are organic, crisp and as good as you could hope them to be. These provide a great punchy mintyness.