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Homemade Looseleaf Licorice Tea

June 7, 2011

It feels like quite a stretch to call looseleaf tea homemade. After all, the only thing that’s involved in “homemaking” it is the blending of the ingredients.

My “go to” looseleaf tea blend is cribbed from Sutra, a vegan restaurant in Seattle that is pretty much one of my favorite all-time places to eat out. I am a lifelong Licorice Lover*, and when I saw licorice tea on the menu I knew I was in for a treat. I had been partial to the Stash blend of licorice tea for years, but it was starting to taste unsubtle to me, a bit like a big licorice potpourri.

Amber, one of the co-owners of Sutra, was kind enough to explain to me the proportions for this blend, which are:

  • 2 parts rooibos
  • 1 part licorice root
  • 1 part mint

You can put these ingredients straight into a tea strainer or a tea bag, or you can pre-blend them in a jar and then spoon out into tea strainers or bags as you go.

These ingredients work perfectly together. The rooibos provides a nice background to the tea; the licorice makes it sweet, even though it’s sugar- (and I think calorie-) free, and the mint makes it taste light and fresh. For me, it’s a great treat, so tasty that it can replace a snack or even dessert.

The one place Amber steered me wrong was sourcing. She claimed that these ingredients could be obtained at Whole Foods, but the enormous Seattle Whole Foods doesn’t stock any of them.

But Market Spice, a spice store in Pike Place Market, has all of them. Market Spice is packed with herbs and spices from floor to ceiling. Their products are all incredibly fresh, and if you ever get a chance to go there you will resent overpriced spices like McCormick for the rest of your life.

I lived in Seattle for only a few months, but I’ve been able to mail order these ingredients from Market Spice ever since. They’ve even got a proper e-commerce site now, which is much less sketchy (although also less charming) than placing orders via email.

How could we go further with looseleaf tea? For one, I could be growing and processing these ingredients myself. I’ve got a mint plant working away on some mint tea leaves for me, but I haven’t figured out licorice and rooibos yet. The little Googling I’ve done makes me think these plants might not be cut out for New England. Licorice plants, for example, have to grow for 3-5 years before you harvest the roots, but they can’t survive through cold winters. So I just need a 3-5 year summer. And rooibos is from South Africa. ‘Nuff said. But if there is a way to grow these two, I would be all ears.

*Disclaimer: If you are the kind of person who likes red licorice, but not black licorice, then you are not a licorice lover, and you probably won’t like this tea.

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