Harvesting Herbs for Tea

Harvesting Herbs for Tea: Best Practices and Tips


Harvesting your own herbs for tea is a gratifying experience that ensures you get the freshest and most flavorful ingredients for your brews. Knowing when and how to harvest your herbs can significantly impact their taste and potency. In this post, we’ll explore the best practices for harvesting herbs for tea, ensuring you enjoy the highest quality tea leaves and flowers.

Best Practices for Harvesting Herbs

1. Timing the Harvest

  • Morning Harvest: Harvest herbs in the early morning after the dew has dried but before the sun gets too hot. This is when the essential oils in the herbs are at their peak, providing the best flavor and aroma.
  • Before Flowering: For most herbs, the best time to harvest is just before they start to flower. This is when the leaves contain the highest concentration of essential oils. Once herbs flower, their flavor can become bitter.
  • Regular Harvesting: Regular harvesting encourages new growth and prevents the plants from becoming leggy. Aim to harvest every few weeks during the growing season.

2. Using the Right Tools

  • Sharp Scissors or Pruners: Use clean, sharp scissors or pruners to cut the herbs. This minimizes damage to the plant and reduces the risk of disease.
  • Harvest Basket or Bag: Use a basket or cloth bag to collect your harvested herbs. Avoid using plastic bags, which can cause the herbs to wilt quickly.

3. Harvesting Techniques

  • Leaves: For leafy herbs like mint, lemon balm, and basil, snip off the top 2-3 inches of the plant, just above a set of leaves or leaf nodes. This encourages bushier growth and more robust plants.
  • Flowers: For herbs like chamomile and lavender, gently pinch or cut the flower heads just below the base. Ensure you only take the mature, fully opened flowers.
  • Stems: For woody herbs like rosemary and thyme, cut the stem just above a leaf node, taking care not to cut too much of the woody part of the plant.

Preparing Herbs for Drying

1. Cleaning

  • Rinsing: If necessary, gently rinse the herbs with cool water to remove any dirt or insects. Pat them dry with a clean towel or let them air dry on a paper towel.

2. Bundling

  • Small Bunches: Gather the herbs into small bundles, tying them together with kitchen string or a rubber band. Make sure the bundles are not too large to allow for proper air circulation.

Drying Methods

1. Air Drying

  • Hanging: Hang the bundles upside down in a warm, dry, and well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. A dark room or closet works well.
  • Drying Rack: Alternatively, spread the herbs out on a drying rack or screen in a single layer.

2. Using a Dehydrator

  • Low Setting: Place the herbs in a single layer on the dehydrator trays. Set the dehydrator to the lowest setting (95-115°F or 35-46°C) and dry for 1-4 hours, checking frequently.

3. Oven Drying

  • Low Temperature: Spread the herbs on a baking sheet in a single layer. Set the oven to the lowest temperature (around 100-110°F or 38-43°C) and prop the door open slightly to allow moisture to escape. Check the herbs every 30 minutes until they are completely dry.

Storing Dried Herbs

1. Containers

  • Airtight Jars: Store dried herbs in airtight glass jars or containers to protect them from moisture and air.
  • Labeling: Label the jars with the herb name and the date of drying to keep track of their freshness.

2. Storage Conditions

  • Cool and Dark: Store the jars in a cool, dark place, such as a pantry or cupboard, to preserve the herbs’ flavor and potency.
  • Shelf Life: Use dried herbs within one year for the best flavor. After that, they may lose some of their potency.

Preparing Harvested Herbs for Tea

1. Crushing

  • Before Brewing: Crush or crumble the dried herbs just before brewing to release their essential oils and enhance the flavor.

2. Brewing

  • Infusion: Use about 1 teaspoon of dried herbs (or 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs) per cup of hot water. Let the herbs steep for 5-10 minutes, depending on the desired strength.
  • Straining: Strain the tea to remove the herbs and enjoy it hot or iced. Optionally sweeten with honey or add a slice of lemon.


Harvesting herbs for tea is a rewarding process that ensures you have the freshest and most flavorful ingredients for your brews. By following these best practices for harvesting, drying, and storing your herbs, you can enjoy delicious and healthful teas year-round. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, growing and harvesting your own tea herbs adds a personal touch to every cup.