In our ongoing conversation about the foods of the Galilee, my close friend Balkees Abu Rabieh and I recently had a particularly enlightening chat about tea. Her mother-in-law, Balkees told me, meticulously picks the various herbs that grow in the garden outside her house – sage, zaatar, zuta (white savory), louisa (lemon verbena), chamomile – even rose buds – dries them in a clean place free of dust, then keeps them in separate jars in her storeroom. She dips into each of these jars to create her own mixture, which she puts in a box and takes to the kitchen.
Balkees’ mother, on the other hand, prefers to pick the herbs from the garden and place them directly into the hot water to make her tea. Whatever is in season, that is what she drinks. Her favorite mixture these days is sage, white savory and rosemary. Louisa and lemongrass are also good. God gave us herbs during every season of the year, she says, and she’ll manage just fine with them.
I belong to Balkees’ mother’s school of thought. One of my greatest pleasures is picking a few sprigs of fresh louisa from the robust bush in my front yard. Within two minutes, I have a cup of fragrant, yellow and delightfully reviving tea. And now, with the winter rains, the zuta plant is starting to come into its own. Zuta is refreshingly minty but more complex than regular mint tea, and is my favorite winter infusion.
Secretly, I sometimes feel sorry for people who have to drink tea from teabags.