As we have chronicled in previous posts, our chamomile did really well this year (until its demise in early June--likely from excessive heat). Now all that is left is to make tea.
Process: Plant some chamomile seeds in the spring. When your plant starts to flower, wait til the leaves are fully extended outward and then go through and hand harvest as many as you need. This step of removing the flower heads is sometimes called "deadheading." (I admit that by the end this year we were harvesting flowers that weren't completely ready but it didn't seem to make a big difference.) You will have to separate the flowers from the stems which can be rather tedious but is no hard to do.
Drying: Spread the flowers out on a foil lined baking sheet and leave it out somewhere with good airflow. Make sure the place you choose isn't too damp or cool. I just left them on my kitchen table. After about a week they should be dry enough for tea.
Storage and Usage: You can then either store the flowers whole (recommended) in a glass jar or you can crush them. Storing and brewing them whole or crushing as needed will allow the tea to maintain more of its oils, keeping it fresher longer since the oils in the flowers are released a bit when crushed. (For a greater discussion of size of tea in relation to taste and brewing I found the Harney & Sons site very helpful).
We opted for crushing dried flowers with our finger tips to make a better comparison with commercial bag tea and ended up with enough tea to fill a Ball pint size canning jar all the way to the top. Store in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid and out of direct sunlight, like a pantry. In hindsight (and after reading the Harney & Sons page months later) I regret crushing it and will probably not do so in the future.
When you are ready to use, put the tea in a tea strainer and pour almost boiling water over. Let steep for 2-3 minutes. You can also can put it directly in a cup and brew and then pour it into a strainer over another cup. In retrospect, the latter method would have worked better for us .
Comparison: Here is what our crushed tea looks like:
Here is commercial chamomile--Stash Organic Chamomile brand--(left) compared to our tea (right). You can see that the commercial tea is ground really finely :
and here is my first cup of our chamomile:
Verdict: Our tea smells AMAZING whereas the commercial organic chamomile has barely any scent at all. Likely because it is already crushed AND has been sitting in that little pouch for goodness knows how long. Ours is not as finely ground but even so it was too fine for our IKEA tea diffuser to completely contain it all and little bits of chamomile escaped. It tasted lovely though. Only job now is to find a finer mesh diffuser or remember to do the two cup method.
Hope this is helpful. Please leave any comments you may have as they are always appreciated! :)