While at Rice, Gabriella Buba ’16 turned her Baker College room into a tea lab. “My Rice roommates could tell you stories,” Buba jokes, referencing her experiments making kombucha and wildcrafting edible plants for teas. Two years after graduation, the experiments are paying off. A chemical engineering major with a day job in the oil and gas industry, Buba has turned a lifelong passion for teas and herbs into a small business.
Buba was first introduced to using local edible flora by her grandparents, who shared their knowledge of plants and old country traditional remedies, including how to make delicious teas from common plants like sweet violet, strawberry and red clover. Today, she creates handcrafted loose leaf tea blends as Buba’s Botanicals and currently sells them at a farmers market in Midland, Texas.
1. Choose your base.
Unless you include Camellia sinensis, the plant from which black, white and green teas come, you’re really making a tisane, or herbal, tea. Besides flavor, the primary advantage to including tea is adding a jolt of caffeine. If you’re not drinking tea to wake up, what is your goal? Ginger has traditionally been used to settle the stomach. Keyed up or restless? Try chamomile. Whichever base you choose, add 1 tablespoon to your blending bowl.
2. Select your complementary herb.
If you started with spicy ginger, why not cool it down with mint, bee balm or lemon balm? Mild, floral chamomile pairs well with naturally sweet ingredients like mallow root, licorice or fennel. Add 2 teaspoons to your blending bowl.
3. Pick high and low flavor notes.
Smell the blend. You’ll want to add something that contributes a pop of flavor next. Citrus peels, hibiscus, rose hips, and Turk’s cap flowers or fruits are all great for lending a bit of acidity. Culinary herbs like thyme, oregano, dill or sage can contribute great highlights, too. Select one or two of these and add 1 tablespoon each, blending all ingredients well.
4. Prepare a pot.
Now you’re ready to taste your tea! Add roughly 1/2–1 teaspoon of your herbal blend to 8 ounces of water, based on your preferences for tea strength and the freshness of the herbs. For purely herbal teas, steep 10 minutes. Steep white, black and green teas for a shorter time to avoid extracting bitter tannins.