In Praise of Processed Food

The difference between serving tea made from herbs you grow yourself and herb tea from a bag “is like the difference between serving your guests a good vintage wine instead of some cheap plonk,” says Conrad Richter, president of Richters Herbs in Goodwood, Ont. “Herbal teas packed in bags are usually powdered,” he explains, so they’re “almost never as flavourful as whole herbs.”


I’ve been drying herbs for tea lately. It’s hard work. Plucking early, before the sun wilts the leaves, washing several times to remove bugs or hoping they won’t be noticeable if served to guests. Then drying them in a dehydrator, trial-and-error for what temperature and time to set. Then stripping the leaves or flower buds off from the stems, and scattering the fragrant stems in the chicken nest-box. Making a little jar of mint or lavender takes hours of processing. At one point I thought, “I hate this. I’m spending hours working with my hands for something that costs $1.99 at the store and I’m not sure if it’ll even taste good.” I used to not disagree with those who criticized processed food. But now I realized, processed food = professionally processed food. And if it doesn’t come processed (straight from the garden), then it will ultimately still be processed…by me, instead of professionals.

I suppose there’s some upside. When I process myself, I *know* that the herbs are organic and pure, that I shook off most of the bugs, and didn’t add anything unsavory. I enjoy the labor but will admit it is extraordinarily time-consuming and perhaps not cost effective. My hope that this was worthwhile is if it has better flavor that what’s offered at the store.

One morning I added a few pinches of lavender buds to my breakfast tea. It was full of flavor, a complex spiced kick! At least there’s promise that the food processing was worth it.


Tea Box Musings

I came across this surprisingly eloquent quote from the side of a Trader Joe’s Peppermint Tea box:

This first cup moistens my lips and throat.

The second shatters my loneliness.

The third causes the wrongs of life to fade gently from my recollection.

The fourth purifies my soul.

The fifth lifts me to the realms of the unwinking gods.

~Chinese mystic, Tang Dynasty

As I both nod and hum in agreement, I am left asking:

  • What is a Chinese ‘mystic’? (Do they also conjure those wise proverbs?)
  • Who are these ‘unwinking gods’? Are they benevolent or cruel?

Here’s a cuppa to quenched thirst and purified souls.