Creative Herbal Blends: Staff Favorites


Around The Tao of Tea, staff are frequently blending herbal concoctions of all kinds for their daily enjoyment — some are strong and pungent brews, the pot packed full of myriad ingredients, while others are a careful mixture of 2 or 3 complementary herbs. In any case, these creations always seem personal and individual, bearing the unique signature of the person making them.

For your own herbal experimentation, we recommend picking up a few staple herbs that you know you like (mint, licorice, lavender, etc.) and some others that intrigue you. Here is a window into what’s being brewed at The Tao of Tea lately in the herbal category:

Alicia’s Brew: Raspberry Leaf, Hand-Ground Fresh Cardamom, Red Rose Petals, Spearmint

Alicia says this blend was inspired by a health book she was reading that discussed the benefits of raspberry leaf, which some say is anti-inflammatory and positive for women’s health. She added some local honey for sweetness and indeed this was a tasty and nourishing infusion.

Sly’s Brew: Green Rooibos, Lemon Balm (base) and Echinacea, French VerveineLicorice, Cinnamon (accents).

Sly uses Green Rooibos and Lemon Balm as the base for a lot of his herbal infusions. “The Lemon Balm coats the tongue and is kind of calming, whereas the Green Rooibos tastes grassy and alive.” From there, he chooses other herbs to accent this blend, depending on what flavors or benefits he is looking for that day. In this blend, the cinnamon bark chips and licorice add a nice natural sweetness to the infusion.sly-blog


Matt’s Iced Brew: Hibiscus, Lemon Myrtle and Lavender.

Also known as “Heaven’s Blend” (named by Sonam in our teahouse), Hibiscus, Lemon Myrtle and Lavender combine to make a tasty iced tea. Matt created this blend as the weather started heating up this spring; it was so well-liked that we started sharing it as a special. We find that the lavender offers a cooling and sweet contrast to the bright tartness of hibiscus. The lemon myrtle adds a gentle citrus quality that ties it all together.

Suggested Reading:

The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine by Dr. David Frawley and Dr. Vasant Lad features most of the herbs we carry at The Tao of Tea and gives great insight into their uses.

More Staff Recipes:

Jennifer’s Brew: Ginkgo, French Verveine, and Licorice.

Wade’s “Ultimate Blend”: Lemon Balm, French Verveine, Vana Tulsi, Red Raspberry Leaf, Lemon Myrtle and a little Spearmint.

Melissa’s “Tea Room Favorite”: Purple Leaf Tulsi and fresh grated ginger.

Making Terere (Iced Yerba Mate)

This summer we have had some intense heat waves here in Portland so it has been perfect weather to explore different styles of iced tea. Lately we’ve been drinking Terere, or iced Yerba Mate, which is popular in South American countries such as Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.

In the video below, Cinthia gives an introduction to brewing Terere. The method is quite similar to brewing Yerba Mate hot. If you haven’t yet seen our guide to brewing Yerba Mate, which also features some information about the social and cultural practice of drinking Mate, check it out here.


  1. Fill your cup about 1/2 full with our Mate Mint blend.
  2. Tip the cup to position the Mate against the side of the cup. Place your bombilla against the bottom of the cup so that it is not resting on top of the Mate.
  3. Add ice water infused with lime and fresh mint.
  4. As with hot Yerba Mate, the person who prepares the Mate drinks the first cup, then prepares it for their companions.
  5. The Mate leaf can be reused several times — just keep adding water!

Featured in this video:

  • Mate Mint: Hand-blended Organic Green Argentinian Mate and cooling spearmint leaves. A cool, minty aroma and smooth, herbaceous flavor.
  • Bombilla: The filtered straw used for drinking Yerba Mate.

Some alternative recipe ideas:

  • Try preparing terere with our other mate offerings.
  • Prepare your terere with cold orange or grapefruit juice instead of ice water.
  • Add herbs such as fennel, lemon balm, coriander or chamomile: put fresh herbs into your water, or blend dried herbs with the Mate leaf.
  • Prepare terere in a French press, or cold brew it overnight.

Let us know what delicious recipes you come up with!

Cold Brewed Iced Tea

As things heat up in the summer months and we begin craving iced beverages, one of the easiest ways to brew tea and herbs is to cold brew overnight in the fridge. Recently we tried this method with three offerings from The Tao of Tea — Hibiscus Ginger, Golden Tips Assam, and Moroccan Mint. The results from an overnight steeping in cool water were full flavored, fresh and delicious — truly steeped to perfection. Below is a guide to cold brewing.

Step 1


All you need is a container for brewing, your desired tea, some water and a strainer. We used a half gallon jug of cool filtered water and half an ounce of tea/herb in our brew (in other words, 1 ounce of tea per gallon). You can play with the ratio, but we’ve found this to be a great starting place.

We chose Hibiscus Ginger because its tart-sweet flavor is ideal as an iced beverage. This is well-known throughout countries like Mexico, Honduras, Egypt and Cambodia. Few things are as refreshing as iced hibiscus.

Similarly, Moroccan Mint (gunpowder green tea and peppermint) has a long tradition of being served iced in Morocco, Algeria, Libya and other countries across the Middle East and beyond.

For those looking for a classic black iced tea, Golden Tips Assam is a favorite at The Tao of Tea because of its smooth, sweet flavor. Other full bodied black teas like Malty Assam and Gyan’s Favorite make great iced tea as well.

Step 2

Leave in the fridge overnight.


Step 3

Use a strainer to serve your tea. If you are not serving all of it in one day and are concerned about it over-brewing, you may consider transferring the the iced tea into another container. Over-brewing is less of a concern when steeping tea leaves in cold water, however, because cold water does not extract as many tannins from the tea leaves as hot water does. Therefore the brew will not become bitter or astringent.

Pour your tea over ice, add a garnish like a sprig of mint, lemon or freshly grated ginger. Enjoy!

Some Other Iced Tea Ideas:
Rose Petal Black
Flower Blend (Rose Petals, Hibiscus, and Lavender)
Malty Assam
Gyan’s Favorite (we’ve enjoyed blending in a little Red Raspberry Leaf)

Yerba Mate Brewing

Yerba Mate was first used by the Guarani Indians, who believed it could cleanse and heal the spirit. Now millions enjoy it in South America. In Brazil, the drinking of Yerba Mate is practiced as a social ritual. Friends and family gather in a circle as the host prepares the beverage in a gourd and drinks the first infusion with a filtered straw called a bombilla (Spanish) or bomba (Portuguese). The gourd is refilled and passed to each guest in the circle. Everyone shares the same gourd and bomba, joining in a bond of acceptance and friendship.

In the following video, Cinthia demonstrates how to brew Yerba Mate while talking more about the tradition behind it. Cinthia comes from Southern Brazil, not far from the border region with Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay, where Mate is enjoyed on a regular basis.

Implements used for brewing Yerba Mate

  • Bomba or bombilla: This filtered straw is used to drink the Mate. They are often made of bamboo or stainless steel.
  • Gourd: Mate cups are often made from natural gourds or wood.

Curing your gourd

  1. Fill your gourd 3/4 full with Mate leaves.
  2. Fill the gourd with hot but not boiling water (around 165 – 175°F) until it is full.
  3. Let the Mate sit overnight. Top off the gourd with more water as the water absorbs.
  4. Rinse out the gourd thoroughly.
  5. For natural gourds (ones not made of wood): Your gourd may have seeds and a natural membrane. Some of this may wash out when you cure it; this is normal but there is no need to excessively scrub the inside.
  6. Let your gourd air dry.

Cleaning your gourd

Always rinse your gourd after use with warm water. Do not use soap because it will absorb into the gourd and flavor your mate. Never use boiling water, as it may crack your gourd.

Let the gourd air dry, preferably at a 45° angle, to prevent mold growth.

Yerba Mate featured in this video

  • Argentinian Yerba Mate (Argentina): Crisp, herbaceous, vegetal aroma and taste.
  • Chimarrão (Iguaçu Valley, Brazil): Powdered Yerba Mate that is strong, herbaceous, grassy, and slightly smoky.
  • Rio (Iguaçu Valley, Brazil): Cooling, clear, bittersweet flavor notes.
  • Roasted Mate (Southern Brazil): Toasty, smooth, and full-bodied with light cocoa notes.
  • Our other Mate choices

Look out for more Yerba Mate videos in the future!

Sencha Brewing (Senchado)

unnamedSencha is a type of steamed Japanese green tea that requires a different brewing technique and temperature than Chinese greens. “Senchado” refers to the way of drinking and enjoying Japanese green tea, and the following will be a guide to doing just that.

In the production of Sencha, the tea leaves can only be harvested for a short time each spring. Shortly after plucking, leaves are steamed to prevent oxidation (rather than fired, as is often the case for Chinese green teas), and then they are rolled and dried until they take on the long, thin shape. Next there is a sieving and cutting process, at which point the cut leaves are sorted according to color and shape.

Senchas tend to be more vegetal and salty than Chinese green teas, with a very pleasant umami flavor. Sencha leaves should be steeped at a temperature slightly cooler than most teas–anywhere from 160-185°F (71-85°C). The tea can be steeped three times, and steeping times will vary from around 15 seconds to a minute and a half. In the following video, Alicia demonstrates one approach to brewing Sencha:

Implements used for brewing Sencha:

  • Kyusu teapot: Kyusu pots are the traditional option for brewing Sencha. The teapot featured in this video is our Edo teapot, a Tokoname clay teapot with a built-in fine mesh strainer. Its round shape allows enough room for leaves to expand.
  • Kyusu leaf holder: The leaf holder can be used to hold discarded tea leaves and to receive the water used for waking up the tea leaves.
  • Water cooler (Yuzamashi): The water cooler is used to hold the cool water that wakes up the leaves. It is also used as a pitcher for the tea once it has finished steeping.
  • Tea caddy/tin: An airtight container is ideal for storing loose leaf tea.
  • Bamboo scoop: Useful for scooping small leaf teas.

Sencha Terms:

  • Fukamushi:  “Deep steamed” Sencha, known for a creamy, buttery texture and beautiful green color. Fukamushi Senchas tend to have some broken, dusty particles of tea along with larger pieces, which is a natural byproduct of the deep steaming process. This is not an indicator of low quality, and rather contributes to a desirable creaminess in the brew.
  • Asamushi: “Light steamed” Sencha. Leaves do not break down as much as they do in the Fukamushi process. Therefore, they may be larger, producing a very clean, crisp and clear brew.
  • Kabuse: Kabuse is a Sencha that is shade grown for a week before plucking, which aids in the production of chlorophyll, increases both caffeine and altheinine (an amino acid that has a calming effect), and can add sweetness and reduce astringency, making for a very desirable smooth, sweet and vegetal tea.

Related Teas:

  • Gyokuro: Shade grown Japanese green teas. Gyokuro shares some flavor similarities with Sencha, such as the umami flavor characteristic of Japanese green teas. However, Gyokuro is its own category and can benefit from different brewing methods, such as using a lower temperature water (in fact, gyokuro tastes great when cold-brewed, or even somewhat lukewarm with temperatures as low as 125-150°F)
  • Tamaryokucha: Tamaryokucha is produced using similar methods as Sencha, but is finish dried in a tumbler, giving the leaf a curled, wavy shape, rather than the straight and needle-like shape of Sencha leaves. This tea can be brewed like Sencha.

Gongfu Tea Brewing

gongfuchaGongfu brewing is a ritualized form of preparing tea that works well with oolongs and puers. The Gongfu tea ceremony originated in the Song Dynasty and by the Ming Dynasty had become more widespread, used especially in Fujian and Guandong. “Gongfu” refers to something done with skill. Indeed brewing in this way can bring out the best flavor in a tea, as one controls variables like water temperature and steep time. In addition to producing a great brew, it is a beautiful ritual and certainly can heighten the experience of brewing tea and sharing it with others.

Implements used in Gongfu Tea Ceremony

  • A Tea Boat – The tray on which the tea is brewed.  The boat has slats or holes in the top that allow water to fall through into the lower tray or vessel below.
  • Tea Leaf Holder – Holds the dry tea leaves and displays them before brewing.  Usually designed for easy pouring of the leaf into the pot.
  • A Gongfu Pot – Often made of clay, which retains heat well as the tea brews.
  • Pitcher or “Fair Cup” – The pitcher will hold the brewed tea once it is done steeping in the pot.  The name “fair cup” refers to the fact that everyone will get exactly the same brew if the tea is decanted first.
  • Cups – A small set of cups is given to each tea drinker.  One is a tall aroma cup, and the other is a shorter drinking cup.  Tea is poured first into the aroma cup and, from there, into the drinking cup.  Take a look at the video below for a demonstration.
  • Other small implements may be used like a bamboo tea scoop, a brush for wiping down teapot and teaware, etc.

Gaiwan Brewing Method

gaiwan_bamboo_webThe Gaiwan is a traditional Chinese cup used for tea brewing. It has been used in China since the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). Gaiwans consist of a lid, cup, and saucer. The tea is brewed inside the cup, and the lid is designed to strain out the tea leaves. Once the tea is steeped, one can drink from the Gaiwan, or they can pour the tea from the Gaiwan into another cup or pitcher. Check out the video below for an example of the Gaiwan brewing method.


Genmaicha Latte Brewing Guide

matcha latteStyle

The Genmaicha Latte is a creamy, caffeinated drink ideal for latte lovers. It can be made with our special powdered Genmaicha sticks.

Teaware Needed

A Genmaicha latte can be prepared on stove-top or with the steamer of an espresso machine. Asian-style espresso cups are ideal for this presentation.

Preparation Recipe

Place three heaping scoops (or one Genmaicha stick packet) into a small amount (around a tablespoon) of hot water and whisk the powder into the water until it is dissolved. Add 8 oz milk (or non-dairy) to the dissolved Genmaicha powder. Bring to a boil once, or steam with espresso machine. Garnish with Genmaicha powder on top.

Sweetener options: vanilla, honey, cane sugar, stevia.

Flavor Profile

Energizing and creamy with a dry taste of fresh greens and toasted rice.


Click here to download the PDF Genmaicha Latte Brewing Guide

Iced Genmaicha Brewing Guide

iced matchaStyle

Ideal in summertime, for those craving an iced, natural, caffeinated and refreshing beverage.

Teaware Needed

Cocktail shaker, tea scoop.

iced matcha - 1

Preparation Recipe

Place three scoops of Genmaicha powder (or 1 Genmaicha stick packet) into a cocktail shaker. Add a splash of hot water (approximately 2 oz) and swirl or whisk the Matcha and water together until the powder is dissolved. Fill the shaker half full with ice, then fill with room temperature water, shake well, and pour into a glass. Garnish with mint or ginger.

Sweetener options: honey, cane sugar, stevia.

Flavor Profile:

Toasty, sweet brown rice aroma and a smooth roasted flavor with a bright, grassy edge.

iced matcha - 3

Click here to download the PDF Brewing guide for Genmaicha Iced Tea

Matcha Chai Brewing Guide

Matcha Chai Glass copy


Ideal for those who love both the rich spice combination of Indian chai, and the creamy, sweet, textured experience of drinking Matcha.

Teaware Needed

Small Ibrik (stove-top boiler), heat-resistant chai cups or tea glasses, matcha tea scoop.

matcha chai - 1

Preparation Recipe

Place three heaping scoops of Matcha into a small amount (around a tablespoon) of hot water and whisk the powder into the water until it is dissolved. Add 8 oz milk (or non-dairy) to the dissolved matcha. Add chai spices of choice (cardamom, cloves, ginger, cinnamon). Bring to boil once, or steam with espresso machine. Add sweetener. Strain and serve. Garnish with any of the powdered spices.

Sweetener options: honey, cane sugar, stevia.

Flavor Profile:

Uplifting, warming mélange of sweet and spicy flavors.

Click here to download the PDF Brewing guide for Matcha Chai

Matcha Latte Brewing Guide

matcha latte


Creamy — Ideal for latte lovers.

Teaware Needed

A Matcha latte can be prepared stove-top or with the steamer of an espresso machine. Asian-style espresso cups are ideal for this presentation.

Preparation Recipe

Add about 1.5 teaspoons (or 3 heaping scoops if using a chashaku) to a small amount of hot water (around a tablespoon) and whisk the powder into the water until it is dissolved.

You can then prepare the beverage like an espresso latte (steam around 8 ounces of milk and pour over the matcha), or you can add your milk directly to the matcha and heat over the stove, bringing to a boil once and then removing from the heat.

Garnish with Matcha powder on top.

Sweetener options: vanilla, honey, cane sugar, stevia.

Flavor Profile

Energizing, creamy, dry taste of fresh greens.


Iced Matcha Brewing Guide

iced matchaStyle

Ideal in summertime, for those craving an iced, natural, caffeinated and refreshing beverage.

Teaware Needed

Cocktail shaker, tea scoop.

iced matcha - 1

Preparation Recipe

Place three scoops of Matcha into a cocktail shaker. Add a splash of hot water (approximately 2 oz) and swirl or whisk the Matcha and water together until the powder is dissolved. Fill the shaker half full with ice, then fill with room temperature water, shake well, and pour into a glass. Garnish with mint or ginger.

This can also be done with our special Genmaicha Powder.

Sweetener options: honey, cane sugar, stevia.

Flavor Profile:

Refreshing and cooling with full, rounded, dry texture.

iced matcha - 3

Click here to download the PDF for ‘Iced Matcha Brewing Guide’

Traditional Matcha Brewing Style


Although the traditional Matcha style has its origins in the elaborate Japanese tea ceremony, a simplified presentation creates a memorable experience for the tea drinker.

matcha set

Teaware Needed

The Matcha bowl, or Chawan, is used to prepare and drink Matcha. We offer several different kinds of handmade, 12 oz Matcha bowls from Tokoname, Japan.

Chawan - Matte Black

The curved portion of the tea scoop, or Chashaku, is used to scoop tea from the Natsume. The Chashaku that we sell is made from black bamboo; often, more elaborate and decorative Chashakus will be used in ceremonies.


The bamboo whisk, or Chasen, is used to dissolve Matcha in water. Many types of Chasen can be found in various colors and thickness. The highest quality whisks are made by hand, including the detailed work of curling thin strands of bamboo.


The tea caddy, or Natsume, stores the tea.



Use 3 scoops of Matcha for 8 ounces of filtered water at 160 F. Press on the tea powder gently, use the whisk with a fast, sideways motion, and bring to a froth.

trad matcha - 1

trad matcha - 3

trad matcha - 4


Usucha, or thin tea, is prepared with half a teaspoon of Matcha and approximately 75 ml (2.5 oz) of hot water, which can be whisked to produce froth or not, according to the drinker’s preference (or to the traditions of the particular school of tea). Usucha creates a lighter and slightly more bitter tea.

Koicha, or thick tea, requires significantly more Matcha, as many as six teaspoons, and up to 3/4 cup of water. Because the resulting mixture is significantly thicker, blending it requires a slower stirring motion which does not produce foam. Koicha produces a sweeter tea, and is served almost exclusively as part of Japanese tea ceremonies.

Flavor Profile:

Sweet, creamy, and buttery with a rich oceanic taste.


Click here to download the PDF Brewing guide for Traditional Style Matcha