From Tea Tales to Teatails: Greek Mountain Tea (5)
Words by Marlijn Berendsen & Timo Janse
Photography by Timo Janse & Marlijn Berendsen
Marlijn, tea sommelier, and Timo, master of the cocktail, join forces to bring you the ultimate tea-cocktail merger experience. Dive into the depths with us!
Today in our quest for the most innovative tea cocktails, we will do something that might be considered a little blasphemous by the true tea-nut. We are talking about what is strictly a herb, and not a variety of the Camellia Sinensis plant. However, when we received a fresh batch in our mail (#teamail), we knew we had to dedicate at least one chapter to this wonderful, fragrant herb. A real favorite of yours truly.
Greece, being a mountainous country which enjoys a good deal of sunshine, its landscapes are covered by many thousands of species of plants. For thousands of years, herbs like chamomile, sage, mint and the likes have been the quintessential healing herbs, lauded for their medicinal functions. Recently, however, a great deal of international research has unearthed the many benefits of what is known as Greek Mountain Tea.
Greek mountain tea, is also known as Sideritis, or Tsai Tou Vounou. The latter meaning “made of iron”. Some hold the belief that in ancient times the herb was used to heal wounds inflicted by iron spears, while others believe the name comes from the spear-like shape of the flower.
What it is
These plants are tough guys, hardly flowering, and adapted to harsh conditions surviving with little water and soil. There are around seventeen varieties of mountain tea (which belongs to the mint family). Only one is cultivated, Sideritis Raeseri, in Greece. Others are gathered in the wild in Greece, Albania, Bulgaria and Macedonia. Our variety, Sideritis Scardica, came from Mt. Olympos and is considered a high quality variety.
What it does
This beautiful herb with its tiny pale, yellow flowers, silvery leaves and sage colored buds has been found to contain at least as many anti-oxidants and polyphenols as green tea, without the disadvantages of caffeine. Recent German research on Greek mountain tea, has also provided strong indications that it can prevent or even reverse Alzheimer’s disease, amongst many other health benefits.
The tea is picked by hand, without the use of any machinery. Due to Greece’s hot climate, the plants are dried immediately after harvest in special drying rooms, directly under the sun. It has a slightly earthy flavor, with floral notes and a subtle undertone of citrus and mint. It combines exceptionally well with honey.
To brew: use water at about 90 degrees Celsius. Use about 2 sprigs per drink. Depending on how prominent you want the flavor to be you can brew between 2 to 10 minutes. The tea does not have a tendency to become bitter.
Timo: For the Teatail i was inspired by a few notions: first, it combines great with notes of honey. Second, as this is a herb, not a tea in the strictest sense of the word, there is no bitterness that might play a role.
Other thoughts in the development of this was the weather and the looming Chivas Masters competition. One of the first thoughts that come to mind when i think of honey cocktails is a Rusty Nail. So i used this as a starting point and worked my way from there.
"Iron Made honey"
60 ml Chivas Regal Mizunara
10 ml Greek Mountain Tea & Honey syrup*
2 dashes Electric bitters
1 bar spoon rice vinegar
Stir all ingredients over ice cubes in a mixing glass. Strain in a wine glass over fresh ice, or large ice block. Garnish with 2 twigs of Greek Mountain Tea.
*Mix 1 part of brewed Greek Mountain Tea with 1 part of good quality honey.