The vibrant flavors of fresh-picked herbs are a vital part of many recipes. But, as any seasoned cook knows, sometimes the best herbs are too precious to use — or they can be difficult to find. That’s why it’s important to have a few tricks up your sleeve for preserving your favorite flavors. One such technique is drying fresh herbs for tea leaves that will bring you one step closer to having your own personal oasis at home.
While the practice of drying herbs is not new, it has gained popularity in recent years as many people are looking for ways to use up their extra herbs (and save money in the process). We’ll take a look at the steps involved in this method, as well as the benefits and drawbacks.
Steps for Drying Herbs for Tea
In order to dry herbs for tea, you’ll need to follow a few basic steps. You’ll need:
- Fresh herbs
- Sheet trays or screens
- Parchment paper (if using trays)
- A food dehydrator (optional, but recommended) or the warmest location in your home (if using screens or a non-HE machine) with low humidity and very good air circulation (see the tips below). The ideal temperature is around 110°F.
While your herbs are, ideally, as fresh as possible, you don’t need to wash them thoroughly before drying. Instead, cut or snip off the leaves at their base so they won’t wilt under the weight of water. (You can also pull out the stems if they’re long and tangled. They will be easier to remove after drying.)
The dried herbs are ready for storage once they are completely dry. Check on them every few hours by separating the leaves and feeling them to see if they’re still damp. You’ll know the herbs are ready to store when they become brittle when you touch them.
Before storing, sort the dried herbs by type (for example, any mint leaves can be placed together in a separate container). And if you don’t want to smell them when you open your tea bag, consider baking the herbs in an airtight container at a low temperature for several days.
What to consider when drying drying herbs for tea
There are many advantages that come with this approach. For instance, you can keep your herbs in a tight container for up to 12 months. Plus, the dried leaves are easy to use. If you’re making a recipe that calls for fresh-picked herbs, simply crumble some of the dried leaves into your dish and it will taste just like the real thing (or close enough).
But there are also some drawbacks. In particular, dried herbs lose much of their flavor and aroma, which means that your creations might not taste quite as good as they would with fresh-picked herbs. The other disadvantage is that the drying process can take several days — although you can speed up the process by placing the herbs in an airtight container and baking them at a low temperature.
It is easiest to dry herbs in a food dehydrator. This method works best if you are drying basil, mint, or other herbs with flat leaves. Because the herbs must be evenly spaced for this method and drying time depends on the size of your dehydrator, it is optimal to use trays or screens that fit in your food dehydrator. As an alternative to a food dehydrator, you can also dry herbs for tea leaves in your oven. However, keep in mind that your herbs will lose more of their flavor and aroma than they would in a dehydrator. To make the process as efficient as possible, it is best to place the herbs on sheets of parchment paper and lay them flat across the racks. If you don’t have screens or trays that fit inside your oven, you can use baking racks instead.
Tips for drying herbs for tea:
- Be sure to use the freshest herbs possible. While you can use older, dried herbs, their flavor will not be as strong.
- Consider your climate and how well it has circulated air when choosing your location for drying herbs. Avoid areas that are too hot or too cold; the ideal temperature is around 110°F (with low humidity). Humidity should be below 50 percent. Use a hygrometer to keep track of these conditions.
- If you are using a non-HE dehydrator, look for a thermostat that will stop the machine if it overheats. You can also wrap the trays in several layers of plastic before placing them in your dehydrator to prevent them from clanging together and possibly overheating.
- Choose herbs that have similar drying times. For example, basil and mint dry fairly quickly, while rosemary takes longer (three to four days). Before drying, be sure to check your herbs regularly.