I’ve always seen shopping as a chore, and I had never really been one of those women who sees a day at the mall as a fun outing. As an advocate of buying local, I like walking around the older urban neighborhoods in my city and stopping at the small mom-and-pop shops. But I even tire quickly of that, so I just end up grabbing a cup of java from a coffee shop and calling it a day.
So when Christmas rolls around, my family and I like exchange homemade gifts. Everyone in the family has a unique talent. After sewing and crafting tote bags, trinkets, and ornaments for people, I’ve moved on to foodie gifts, which always go over well.
Yet after a few years of giving homemade goodies – the dry cookie mix in a decorative Mason jar, homemade tea breads, candies, spices that I blended myself – I started running out of ideas even for yummy treats. After a late-night brainstorming session, I thought drinks instead of eats would be the way to go this year.
Since I started experimenting over the fall season with raw tea blends made from bulk herbs available at my local co-op, I decided that everybody’s getting tea this year. I researched more flavors and the health benefits of some of the most popular herbs. Equal parts raw chamomile and lavender can be blended into a calming tea. I’ve noticed that after a cup, I feel any stress melt away. Spearmint just by itself makes a great relaxing tea, but try adding ginger and fennel to give the digestive system a boost. Rose hips, lemongrass and lemon zest (dried) makes a tasty citrus variety, and rose hips have vitamin C to help combat winter colds. With a little research, you can make endless combinations customized to your taste. One tablespoon of tea blend per one cup of hot water makes a hearty cup of tea on a cold winter’s night.
Various raw herbs can be blended into tasty teas.
For chocolate lovers, I made a gourmet hot chocolate mix by simply blending three parts sugar to two parts unsweetened cocoa powder (like the kind you’d use for baking). Then add a dash of cinnamon. My two excellent sources for cocoa are Penzeys Spices and fair trade chocolate experts Omanhene Cocoa Bean Co.
I packaged my teas and hot chocolate mixes in half-pint Mason jars (is there anything those jars aren’t good for?) and prettied them up with fabric, ribbon and stickers. The beverage gifts were a hit with the people we’ve exchanged presents with so far this season, and the cost was very economical.
I’m already brainstorming next year’s foodie gifts. Happy Holidays!
Put your herbal tea or hot chocolate mixes into decorated Mason jars to present as gifts.