Keely Shaye Brosnan's Tea Secrets
By Keely Shaye Brosnan
Sometimes there's no better remedy for a hectic day than a fragrant pot of herbal tea. I love bringing freshly picked, lusciously scented leaves and flowers into my kitchen. Friends and neighbors share my enthusiasm after they experience their first whiff of tangy lemon verbena or the romantic splendor of a rose-scented geranium. Together we blend and brew newly shorn peppermint and spearmint leaves, the flowers of chamomile and hibiscus or lemon grass and fennel stalks before retreating into my seaside garden to enjoy our warm elixir.
Over the years I have found cultivating an herbal-tea garden promotes a connectedness to mind, body and spirit—and it’s easier than you think, as most culinary herbs thrive in Southern California’s temperate climate as long as they receive adequate moisture and four hours of sunshine daily.
Whether you want an early morning boost, a comforting tonic or a mild medicine, herbal teas offer tasty and effective remedies.
An indispensable curative, herbalists prescribe peppermint tea to stimulate brain activity, alleviate nausea and help cure indigestion, colds and fevers. Additionally, its anesthetic and antiseptic properties have been found to soothe sore throats, ease coughs and relieve migraines. A lusty grower, peppermint reaches from 12 to 36 inches in height and spreads its network of roots rapidly into garden soil.
A mild sedative, expectorant and antipyretic, lemon verbena blends well with lemon grass, hibiscus and fennel. The frost-tender, deciduous shrub produces slender lance-shaped leaves that impart an intense lemony fragrance and delicate citrus flavor.
Use only German and Roman chamomile for culinary purposes--both are esteemed for their analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Unlike other tea herbs, the foliage should be discarded; only the white blossoms with convex, sunny-yellow centers are used when making tea.
Tea for Two
As the autumnal weather grows chilly, slip inside one of these fine establishments for a cozy afternoon tea experience.
The Peninsula Beverly Hills (9882 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; peninsula.com) This plush hotel offers a classic English afternoon tea presentation (with or without sparkling wine), featuring live harp music and serene service set amidst an elegant interior. You will leave feeling relaxed, indulged and refreshed.
The London West Hollywood (1020 N. San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood; thelondonwesthollywood.com) Unwind and luxuriate with a variety of exotic teas, traditional handcrafted tea sandwiches and delicate pastries at this chic hotel right in the heart of LA.
Akasha (9543 Culver Blvd., Culver City; akasharestaurant.com) Organic fair-trade teas and gourmet vegan pastries, tea cakes, cupcakes and specialty sandwiches can be found in this überchic, casual café setting. Look for your favorite film or television star dining quietly in the corner.