It's summer, so it's time for yet another review of a home-grown herbal tea. Why do I review things that you can't buy? Because they're amazing, and I want to encourage people to grow their own herbs too. And perhaps someone will be inspired to start their a business selling herbs locally...orange mint, like many mints, grows out of control in humid temperate climates; the only work involved is in harvesting and drying it. I would love to see a world where more herbal teas are produced locally, in small batches like the one I am reviewing here.
In a post from march titled Four Herbal Teas You May Not Know About, I introduced orange mint and showed the picture on the right, orange mint as it was just sprouting in my garden. Orange mint is a varietal of peppermint which has been cultivated for its unusual aroma--very different from peppermint. It is easily distinguished from peppermint on sight by its very rounded leaves, whereas peppermint tends to have strongly pointed leaves.
Normally I use orange mint in blends with other mints, as it is decisively non-minty, but I decided to keep some of it separate so I could enjoy it on its own, have a sense of what it contributes to a blend, and of course, so I could write this review!
Unfortunately, I did not have a camera when I harvested this mint, so there are no pictures of what the plant looks like fully grown. It was harvested from a mixture of my own garden and my parent's garden in Lancaster, PA. Both were harvested on June 20th, and I dried them in my apartment, spreading the leaves out on a table in a warm, dry area away from direct sunlight.
The mint from both yards are grown in partial shade and moist, rich soil with loose leaf litter, making the leaves broader and thinner than plants grown in full sun. I have no idea how this affects the quality of tea, but for use as fresh herbs, I strongly prefer shade-grown mints.
I used about 2 tablespoons of dry leaf per cup, which is probably only about 2-3 grams because the leaf was very coarse. I brewed this tea for 8 minutes, using boiling water.
It came out a rich amber color, very clear. The aroma is strongly and pleasantly vegetal and herbaceous, with much of these qualities shared in common with other mints (like spearmint or peppermint) but this one lacks the characteristic (and often overwhelming) minty aroma. There is also a fairly strong orange presence, especially in the finish. Initially it's more subdued, like the aroma of candied orange peel, but upon drinking the whole cup it becomes noticeably fruity and suggests sweetness. By the end there are noticeable tones of peach and apricot. There's also a little spicy quality throughout, similar to holy basil or tulsi, but much less pronounced.
The flavor is smooth...this is mostly an aromatic tea. There is little bitterness, sourness, or astringency, although, like many mints, the bottom of the cup is very slightly more bitter and astringent. There is some sweetness. Compared to other mints, I found this one less bitter, which surprised me because the fresh herb is quite bitter.
I actually found it surprising how much the aroma of this tea resembled orange. The fresh leaves do not suggest orange to me at all, and rather, suggest basil. I have even had people tell me that they thought they were eating basil, when I used fresh orange mint in cooking or in a salad. I frequently make tomato salads, substituting orange mint for basil, and often, people are fooled, and sometimes don't even believe me when I tell them I'm using a form of mint and not basil. But upon drinking this cup, I am convinced that this variety of mint is well-named.