Whether you consider yourself a fully-fledged tea connoisseur or not, there’s nothing to stop you raiding your fridge and spice rack and conjuring up simple, sustainable, and cheap teas from whatever you happen to have on hand. My introduction to the world of improvised home brews came via the farmer's market. Once you realize there's levels to shopping seasonally, you embrace the ideal of trying to use every single part of whatever produce you've tossed in your tote bag. After you roast up a bushel of beets, you can use the greens just as you would spinach, kale or chard. Or when you peel a potato, you can use those those peelings for impromptu crisps. And when it comes to carrot tops, you might be encouraged to turn them into a pesto—but the best way to repurpose them is to brew them up into a tea.
Yes, those cascading carrots tops can be stewed in boiling water inside a tea pot, tea egg, or tea strainer (or even just a saucepan, if we're being honest). Let them sit for a leisurely 15 minutes and they'll magic themselves into a zippy tasting tea that's probably filled with all sorts of detoxifying and vitamin benefits. Carrot top tea also works great as a cheap and easy iced-tea if left to chill in the fridge . Just add honey and lemon to taste. You can perform a similar tea trick with the stringy fronds from fennel and celery leaves, too.
The great thing about improvised home brew teas is the idiot-proof simplicity of the process (if you could even call dumping some herbs into a pot and pouring water over them a process). Recipes for the best-ever-guaranteed-cure-all-detox teas abound online—but they're often unnecessarily finicky and involve ingredients that will be a pain to track down. Or even ingredients you have never, ever heard of. (Angelica root?).
Instead, haphazardly raiding your spice rack, kitchen cabinets and the crisper drawers of the fridge can be just as successful. Suffering from an achey back or a crick in the neck? Throw a cinnamon stick, some slices of ginger and some turmeric (powdered or fresh) together and you've got a concoction that, if mass produced and packaged, would brag about its anti-inflammatory properties.
Feeling the onset of a cold? Combine a whole red chili pepper with some cloves and honey for soothing relief. (Take the chili out after a couple of minutes if you're heat-averse.)
Hankering after something a little creamier? Mix coconut milk (or almond or soy or even ye olde cow juice) with turmeric, honey and ginger and simmer for a few minutes for a drink your local artisanal coffee shop will probably hawk to you for five bucks under the guise of Golden Milk.
Still clinging to the wintery joys of the festive season? Bathe allspice berries, cardamom pods and cloves in some hot water. Will it conjure up the aroma of the holidays? I don't know—I just made it up now.
But that's the beauty of ad-libbed teas: The science of pouring boiling water over something to coax out its flavors remains the same, so just pick tastes and smells you like and let them steep to victory—although you might want to draw the line at onions.