How to Make Bee Balm Tea from fresh or dried bee balm ~ this easy infusion is not only pretty and delicious, it’s been used for hundreds of years to aid digestion, calm nerves, and treat colds and flu.
Bee Balm iced tea is a refreshing herbal tea
The hotter summer gets, the more I crave iced drinks, and since I have a gorgeous patch of raspberry hued bee balm growing in my yard this year I’m making an easy cold brew tea with the vivid petals. It makes a refreshing all natural drink right now, and I’ll dry the flowers and leaves for a flu soothing hot tea this winter.
Bee Balm (Monarda. M. didyma)
This beautiful perennial garden plant and wildflower (M. fistulosa) is native to North America, and in the mint family, which probably explains why it makes such amazing tea. You might also know it as horsemint, oswego tea, or bergamot. It comes in various shades from brilliant red and pink to lavender and white. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, the flowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees; and the seed heads attract birds in the fall and winter, so it’s an eco-friendly choice for any garden. Both flowers and leaves are edible, and they make fabulous herbal tea. Starting with Native Americans, folks have been using it medicinally for centuries. You can read about how different tribes have used the plant over at the USDA plant guide.
Cold brew method for making tea
You’ve heard of cold brewed coffee, but what about tea? Cold brewing is a method for making tea that relies on time rather than heat to infuse the tea. Granted it takes a little longer than standard tea kettle tea, but it’s a lovely back to basics experience not to be missed. Plus, you end up with tea that’s already chilled from the get-go: a bonus in these steamy summer months.
How to Make Iced Bee Balm Tea
The story goes that colonists starting making bee balm tea in the Boston Tea Party era when they were boycotting British black tea, but the Native Americans were doing it way before that. You can make tea from fresh or dried bee balm. I use the fresh flowers to make a blushing pink iced tea, but you can make tea from the fragrant leaves, as well.
- Start by choosing bee balm that is pesticide free. Pick a small bunch of bee balm and remove the leaves from the stems and colorful petals from the flower heads.
- Fill a clean jar with filtered water and add the bee balm, giving it a good stir.
- Close the lid and put the jar in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours, giving it a shake now and then.
- Strain the tea through cheesecloth, or you can also use a coffee filter. Your strained tea will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- Serve over ice, sweetened with honey, and a wedge of lemon, if you like. If you’d prefer to add sugar to your tea, just stir it in and give it time to dissolve. Sugar will dissolve in cold liquids, but it takes longer than it does in hot tea.
Can you make bee balm sun tea?
It’s not advisable to make sun tea because of the risk of bacterial contamination. Sun tea is gently warmed by the sun to a temperature that is ideal for the potential growth of bacteria, and while the risk is small, it’s best to avoid this method.
What does bee balm tea taste like?
To me it has an herby flavor like a combination of mint, basil, and oregano, but not as strong. There’s also a hint of menthol which makes it refreshing.
Medicinal uses for bee balm tea
Bee balm isn’t the new kid on the block when it comes to health benefits, it’s been known for generations to be effective in treating many common ailments. I wasn’t able to track down any scientific studies confirming or denying these claims, but it’s nonetheless interesting to learn how bee balm has been used over the years.
- Hot bee balm infused tea has been used to relieve upper respiratory ailments like colds and flu.
- It’s often used to sooth indigestion, nausea, and menstrual cramps.
- It has purported anti-septic and anti-microbial properties because it contains a high proportion of thymol, and is used to treat stings, bites, and wounds.
- It is also said to be helpful for the treatment of depression.
- Native Americans used it to treat fever and chills.
- Herbal teas of all kinds can be soothing…try filling a small muslin bag with dried bee balm and adding to your hot bath in the winter for a relaxing aromatherapy experience…it’s sheer heaven!
Where to find bee balm
Bee balm is a common garden plant in zones 3-9, so chances are you’ve got some growing near you. It blooms in summer, on tall stems topped with brilliant red or scarlet blossoms. You’ll also find it growing wild with shorter stems and lavender or white flowers. Both types are edible and make lovely tea.
Grow your own!
If you live in zones 3-9, and have a sunny to part sunny patch in your yard, this is a wonderful plant to grow. It’s beautiful, comes back year after year, and can be divided and shared over and over again.
The easiest way to start your bee balm patch is by division in the spring, so check out your friends’ and neighbors’ yards. You can also buy wild or cultivated seeds online.
Keep in mind that, like all its mint cousins, bee balm tends to spread (i.e. it can be invasive) so keep an eye on it and divide the plant regularly in the spring to control it.
How to dry bee balm for tea
Putting up summer’s bounty isn’t all about tomatoes and peaches, don’t forget about the edible flowers and herbs that you can dry for the rest of the year, too.
- There are many methods for drying flowers and herbs, but with long stemmed bee balm I think the easiest is to string them up, upside down, and hang them in a cool dry place until they’ve dried completely.
- Then carefully remove the leaves and flowers from the stems and store them in an airtight container. They’ll last up to a year.
- When you’re ready to make tea, crush the petals and leaves before adding to hot water to release their flavor oils.
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Bee Balm Tea
- 1 quart filtered water
- 10 bee balm flowers, freshly picked and cleaned
- Put the water into a large glass jar or pitcher. Remove the flower petals from the bee balm stems.
- Add the bee balm to the water, giving it a good stir. You can also add leaves if you like.
- Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. I give the jar a shake every now and again to help the infusion along.
- Strain the tea through cheesecloth or a coffee filter and then keep chilled until ready to use.
Questions and Reviews
I’m so interested in all the uses for my red bee balm, especially the tea.
A bit confused….do I use just the petals from the flowers or the entire flower head?
I’ve made bee balm iced tea using just the petals and leaves but am not getting the nice pink blush.
Hi Susan, you can use the entire flowers, and the leaves. I discard only the stems. Different varieties of bee balm are different colors, so that might account for your paler color. Or use more flowers to get that deeper hue.
Your photos are beautiful. I’m growing bee balm for the first time this year, still waiting for blossoms, but now I can hardly wait to try your tea-making method.
The blossoms do come late…hope you enjoy it 🙂
I know I won’t be the only one, but in response to Cheryl, for your information, the title on the Recipe says Bee Balm Sun Tea. Love your blog and recipes!
Fixed that Carrieann, thanks!
Where is the SUN in this tea? When I make sun tea it steeps in the sun.
This is a cold brewed tea, Cheryl, I mention in the post that making sun tea is actually not recommended, especially with fresh plants like this, because the sun heats the water to a temperature that can encourage bacteria growth.