Greek mountain tea (τσάι του βουνού) is made with a genus of flowering plants called Sideritis (which literally translates into “he who is made of, or has, iron”). It is sometimes referred to as ironwort or shepherd’s tea. It’s a pretty tea, with little yellow flowers, silver tinged leaves, and light green buds and it is usually sold, in Greek markets or on-line, in dried branches or stems. This is a plant which is resilient and stubborn, producing flowering shrubs which are capable of growing at high altitudes with little soil, or even on the surface of rocks.
Mountain tea is made using a method called decoction (that’s right…this blog will also make you smarter). Decoction is a way of extracting chemicals and other goodies from plants by boiling them. What you end up with, in this case the mountain tea which results from this process, is also called a decoction. It has a very unique earthy taste, and a floral scent, particularly if you use the flowers (which you should).
Hippocrates, father of modern medicine, and all around great guy, claimed that Greek mountain tea would boost the immune system and resolve respiratory issues. There are more recent reports of it’s medicinal properties as well, including the belief that it can, amongst other things, lower blood pressure, fight the common cold, and aid in digestion. We have not conducted a thorough review of the scientific literature examining the potential benefits of Sideritis, and therefore feel ill equipped to make any health claims on it’s behalf. We do know this however; when we are feeling a bit under the weather, a nice warm cup of mountain tea seems to nip whatever may have been decocting in the bud (did you see what we did there?).
How to make Greek mountain tea
Mia Kouppa: Mountain Tea
- For every cup of tea, use one or two branches or sprigs of mountain tea. Add the tea to a pot filled with the amount of water you will serve and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for approximately 5 minutes. You can allow the tea to steep even longer for a stronger flavour. Remove and discard sprigs. Add honey, sugar or lemon to taste.