Tea at Morningside – Guest Blog by Jillian Wieda

I’m Jillian Wieda, a Master’s of Psychology student at University of Westminster, originally from California. I’ve been in the U.K. just over a year and hope to stay longer to train as a therapist or psychologist. Volunteering with Cordwainers Grow is an amazing opportunity to commune with the natural world, learn new skills and meet amazing people. I hope one day soon to grow organic produce of my own!

Enjoying a warm, delicious cup of tea with biscuits is such a treat for many of us. Now imagine drinking a healthy cup of tea that you grew and assembled yourself, using all of your favorite herbs! Cordwainers Grow, in partnership with Sanctuary Housing, recently presented the workshop: Growing Herbal Tea on your Balcony. It was great fun and a group of young children from the community joined our volunteers to give it a go!

This workshop is part of a free series called Herbs in the Home offered at the Morningside Community Centre in Hackney.

Some upcoming fall workshops include; Creating herbal remedies and a First Aid Kit (September 25), Making Body and Home Cleaning Products (October 23) and Making Anti-Bug Herbal Moth Balls (November 20).

The herbal tea workshop started with clipping a few fresh herbs, like rosemary and sage, from the Morningside Community Centre’s own garden. We then learned (as I’m a volunteer as well) how to clip segments of the plants and replant them in small pots. These small, potted herb gardens can grow on balconies and window sills to provide fresh herbs for tea and cooking.

The next step was to create our own customized tea bags from a variety of dried herbs. The children used their sense of smell to select from chamomile, echinacea, lemon balm, lemon verbena, lavender and nettle. The volunteers also shared some of the natural healing qualities, historically linked with the herbs. Some children added hot water to their creations and sipped on them right away, while others crafted ingredient labels and were off to give them to their families.

Corwainers Grow would love for more community members to join us for free fun and education, so please spread the good word!

   

Rosemary is easy to take cuttings from.
Rosemary is easy to take cuttings from.
Making cuttings from sage
Making cuttings from sage
Rosemary cuttings
Rosemary cuttings
Protect the cuttings and keep moisture in with plastic bags
Protect the cuttings and keep moisture in with plastic bags
Choosing herb mixtures to make tea.
Choosing herb mixtures to make tea.
Making brews.
Making brews.
Herbal teabag personally mixed.
Herbal teabag personally mixed.

 

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Tea Tasters and Perfumiers

Tea Tasters and Perfumiers
Making teabags with herbs tied up in muslin squares.
Making teabags with herbs tied up in muslin squares.
Alicia's special teabag mix.
Alicia’s special teabag mix.

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Once again the Wilton Estate provided excellent snacks (top scones.  Thanks Debbie!) and good weather.

We set up shop for our herbal teabag and lip balm workshop with no-one actually signed up to come but because we were outside and welcoming (a lesson there), we picked up quite a lot of passing trade – three children who came to our last workshop, and a handful of adults who were lured with promises of an interesting afternoon – and cake.

We started with the herbs for making tea. We tried out some mint and lemon verbena first. The children were slightly reluctant but discerning tasters and a young man was a keen tea drinker but seemed to be a little suspicious of drinking anything quite so fresh and obviously home grown. But he was game and was interested in learning about all the different medicinal properties of the plants. We rubbed and sniffed all the herbs and then made our own mixes from mint, feverfew, chamomile, lemon verbena, comfrey, thyme, nettle and yarrow.

Next Nat produced an array of essential oils and we sniffed them all feeling quite dizzy with the headiness of them. We chose one or two scents to go into our calendula oil and beeswax concoctions and got some lovely combinations of perfumes using neroli, lemon, ylang ylang, rosemary, sandalwood and orange, to name a handful. An elderly man calling himself John the Baptist turned up and asked lots of questions about herbs and how to grow them as he said he was tired of all the medicines he had to take. He said he’d be back for our next workshop on the 25th.

What’s been so enjoyable has been the spontaneity of the workshops; how a disparate but companionable group can gather in the sun being peaceful and curious and, hopefully going home with a little more wonder about plants. Let’s hope they’ll be back next week for more creative wonderment.