Teas can be made with the leaves, roots, stems, flowers and fruit of a great many herbs and plants. The art of steeping dried or fresh herbs is hot water goes back many thousands of years. Forget about most of the nasty powdery stuff you get in today's tea bags - it has its uses, but when it comes to drinking it really is second rate compared with the real thing. If you doubt this, then find a good-quality store which sells loose tea by weight rather than in packets and try it. This is especially true for most of the herbal teas which are on sale; being manufactured so as to have a long shelf life, they tend to need a lot of steeping, which also brings some of the bitter flavors to the fore. These teas almost always need large quantities of sugar or honey to make them palatable. If you prepare your own brews from basic ingredients you will find this gives a completely different flavor, not to mention actually promoting their health-giving or Magical properties. I would only recommend manufacturing teas when you are seeking remedies for babies or young children, as they are designed to be tolerated by the young and palatable to them. When making tea or any other herbal infusion there are certain ways of making the most of your preparation:
* Always use china or glass and never metal or plastic, as many herbs will react with these to taint the flavor. Always use clean utensils. It used to be said that you should never really clean a teapot as it would change the taste of the tea. Too right it does - it allows you to revisit the old tired tannins and other extracts which remain on the crockery. Not a good thing!
* Try to ensure that your kettle is clean, especially if your water supply is very chalky or has a lot of chemicals in it. Only fill your kettle with as much water as you will need - this conserves both water and electricity - and always boil freshly-drawn water, don't reboil it.
* If you can, try to make your teas with filtered or spring water. Where you are certain there is little air pollution, rain water is ideal. For magical brews the best results are gained by collecting rain water and exposing it, in a clear jar, to the light of the Full Moon.
* Make your tea just before you intend to drink it and strain it as soon as the herbs have had the right amount of time to soak, even if you do intend to have a second cup. The longer the herbs remain in the water, the more any bitter taste will emerge. If you make up tea blends in advance, keep them in an airtight container in a dark cool place, and discard unused combinations after a couple of months. No infusion should need to stand for more than 12 minutes. If it is not strong enough after that, make a note to add more of the herb next time.
* Chilled teas will need to be covered in the refrigerator, otherwise they may take up other flavors or release their own to contaminate other foods (especially milk).
Most herb teas are are not intended to be drunk more than three times a day. You can have too much of a good thing! In an ideal world the rest of your daily fluid intake would be made up of water. Herb teas are also intended to be drunk warm, not boiling, and sipped slowly, if you have a great thirst, then drink a glass of water whilst waiting for your tea to cool. Where possible, take your time over preparing and drinking your tea, as you will find it enhances the flavor as well as the effects. Remember to inhale the aromas too. Take a tip from the Japanese, who are famous for their tea rituals: take your time.
~The physical and Magical properties of common herbs when infused~
* Basil: Gastric sedative, soothes coughs, induces perspiration to reduce fever; love, exorcism, wealth, flying, protection.
* Bay: Stimulates appetite, digestion; protection, psychic powers, healing, purification, strength.
* Camomile: Digestive aid, eyewash, gargle, calming; money, sleep, purification.
* Dandelion: Diuretic, digestive aid, cleanses the blood; divination, wishes, connecting with spirits.
* Elderflower: Alleviates colds and headaches, induces sleep; protection, healing, prosperity.
* Fennel: Digestive and dietary aid, expectorant, reduces catarrh; protection, healing, purification.
* Lemon Balm: Anti-spasmodic for the digestive system, stimulant for the circulatory system, counteracts tiredness and stimulates the brain; Psychic powers, longevity.
* Marjoram: Disinfectant and antiseptic, promotes healing, induces sleep, antidepressant; love, happiness, health, money.
* Mint: Refreshing, digestive aid; healing, travel, exorcism, protection.
* Nettle: Rich in materials and vitamins, cleanses and purifies the blood; exorcism, curse breaking, protection.
* Parsley: Diuretic, helpful with joint pains, acts to take up the scent of strong-smelling foods; protection, lust, fertility.
* Raspberry Leaf: Strengthens the female reproductive system, especially helpful if drunk regularly during the last third of pregnancy; protection, love, banishing spirits.
* Rosemary: Stimulates the heart and circulation; cleanses and purifies, mental powers, youth.
* Sage: Tonic, disinfectant, alleviates coughs, colds and fevers; longevity, wisdom, wishes.
* Thyme: Antiseptic and disinfectant; purification, psychic powers, courage.
There are times when you want something more simulating than a simple herb tea - when celebrating Sabbats, feasting or holding a party, or just generally relaxing in the company of good friends. On these occasions you might want to look at stronger concoctions. some you can buy, others you can make yourself.
~Magical Fruit Wines~
If you are a winemaker then you can make any of the following from first principles. If, how-ever, you prefer a quicker method, take a cupful of the juice of any of the following and add to a bottle of good-quality white wine, either still or sparkling. Some types of fruit will go better with a sweet wine, but this really depends upon your taste. Chill for an hour before serving.
~The Magical Properties of Fruit~
* Apple: Love, healing, immortality.
* Cherry: Romantic love, divination.
* Elderberry: Sleep, divination.
* Elderflower: This is not a fruit but elderflower wine is comparatively easy to find; protection, prosperity.
* Grape: Of course wine itself is made of grapes so you do not need to add any more to use it for fertility, garden magic, mental powers and money.
* Orange: Love, luck, money, solar energy.
* Peach: Love, exorcism, fertility, longevity.
* Pear: Physical love.
* Plum: Healing, protection.
* Raspberry: Protection, love, safe childbirth, (of course pregnant women should only drink in moderation, if at all, but that doesn't stop friends from wishing them well!)
* Rhubarb: fidelity, protection of the home.
* Strawberry: Love and Luck.
* Vanilla: Whilst not a fruit as such, you can always add a few drops of the essence of vanilla to increase mental powers and restore energy.
Those of you who like a stronger tipple can follow the lead of the Russians, who infuse their herbal remedies in vodka.
The general process is the same whether you are adding herbs, fruit (usually the peel), spices or other additives. Take a bottle of good-quality vodka (cheap vodka will taste oily) at room temperature, add your chosen flavors and replace the cap carefully. Leave to stand at room temperature for 12 to 14 hours, tasting to see if the flavor is strong enough. Strain, then freeze for at least 6 hours before serving. You can leave the herbs, etc., in the bottle, which looks far more effective, but do be aware that even in the freezer the flavor will continue to develop.
Try the following:
* Basil: 4 to 5 sprigs. Drink to promote friendship and harmony.
* Blackcurrant: 2 teaspoons of the buds whilst they are still sticky. Drink as a tonic or to drive out negative influences.
* Cardamom: 6 lightly crushed cardamoms. For love, romance and as an aphrodisiac.
* Coffee: 12 coffee beans. You can add 6 tbsps of sugar if you fancy a liqueur flavor. Drink as a stimulant and to aid digestion.
* Coriander: 2 tsps of crushes coriander. To warm and relax, and for love and lust.
* Dill and Garlic: 3 sprigs of dill and 2 halved garlic cloves. This is an uplifting drink which raises the spirits and is used for protection, love, lust and money.
* Fennel: 2 tsps lightly crushed seeds or the tops from 4 plants. Drink for purification, protection and healing. It is also said that eating the fennel helps to avoid the attentions of insects.
* Lemon: The sliced peel of a lemon (ensure there is no pith present). This zingy drink inspires conversation and is said to bring about strong bonds of friendship as well as longevity.
* Mint: 6 whole mint leaves. To aid in digestion, especially after a heavy meal, also to promote wealth and prosperity.
* Hot Pepper: 1 small hot (not chilli) pepper, lightly scored all over. Drink to fidelity, enduring relationships or to exorcise negative energies. It is also excellent for warding off colds and 'flu.
* Saffron: Take 1/4 tsp saffron, add to 1 tsp hot water, crush thoroughly and add the paste to your vodka. Drink this golden liquid for laughter, joy, prosperity and to enhance psychic powers.
* Tarragon: 3 to 4 sprigs of fresh tarragon. Drink to wisdom, fertility and divination.
Russians drink their vodka neat from very small glasses, usually with a long feast of small pieces of light foods, but be aware that whilst a little will work wonders, a lot may well have the opposite effect once the alcohol gets to your brain, not to mention the morning after!
There is no limit to the varieties of tea, wine, vodka or indeed any other drink you care to make, other than your own imagination. You can also experiment with fruit beers or other alcoholic beverages. Just remember that a good-quality base, whether vodka or water, will be the main influence on the flavor and efficacy of your finished product, so it really is worth spending that little extra, even if it means consuming less.