Teas of the World: Greek Mountain “Tea”

Anyone who has read my articles for awhile now and/or followed me on Facebook, Twitter, etc., knows that I prefer to use the word “tea” only for those beverages made from the Camellia Sinensis plant and its varietals. So, this Greek Mountain “Tea” is for me a bit of a misnomer.

Greek “Teas” from Yahoo! Images
Greek “Teas” from Yahoo! Images

Like guayusa, rooibos, honeybush and more, this “tea” is made from an entirely different plant. In this case, the plant is Sideritis, otherwise known as ironwort. The plant grows on rocky slopes (Greece and the nearby island of Crete have a lot of those) at around 3,200 feet elevation. It is a hardy perennial that can survive in areas where there is not a lot of water or soil. Most types of Sideritis grow wild, but there is one type that is cultivated (Sideritis raeseri).

In Greece, this “tea” is often named after whichever mountain the ironwort was harvested on (“Parnassos tea,” for example). In English, though, it is most often called “Shepherd’s Tea.” This reflects a bucolic view, where Greek shepherds steeped up an infusion from these plants to drink while watching over their sheep.

An infusion of ironwort is a popular drink in Greece, Macedonia, and Albania, during winter to help relieve aches, colds, and various pains from the cold weather. The infusion is said to have additional beneficial effects such as relieving respiratory issues, aiding digestion, and boosting the immune system. It is also an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory.

How to Make a Greek Mountain Infusion:

Use 1/2 ounce of dried ironwort (leaves and flowers) in about one quart of water heated to a boil. Let it steep for a maximum of 10 minutes. Strain into cups. Many find it a bit bitter and add a sweetener like honey or sugar and even some lemon. Enjoy either with breakfast or at bedtime. It goes well with foods like feta cheese, a hearty bread, and some strong, salty black olives.

As a lover of Greek foods, music, art, and more, I just might have to give their “tea” a try. Opah!

Disclaimer: This is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your physician for your particular needs.

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

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