First, I should add that never in my entire life had I considered making this into a tea. Oregano is for pasta sauce and Mexican food, right? It’s not for tea.
The only reason I considered whipping up an oregano tea is that my mom was gushing about this two-gallon supply she had of it that had been sitting in the pantry for two years. Normally two-year-old dried herbs, long forgotten in a neglected pantry, would be composted as we make way for a new season. Instead, she smelled and tasted it and was amazed that it held its flavor that long. It was still robust in flavor, she claimed.
For me, the easiest and most direct way to get a good taste of an herb or a spice is to turn it into a tea and so I did just that.
I drank the cup of tea and was stunned that I was drinking oregano tea and that I was enjoying it.
I put on a large pot, let it steep, and then filled a thermos with it and took it to a neighbor. She was amazed.
As I went to bed last night excited that I had “discovered” a new tea, I had one of those moments where my eyes opened up like saucers and I said, “Whoa. That’s a heck of a way to get more antioxidants.”
We are told to drink black tea and coffee for antioxidants but I do try to watch my caffeine. I love an approach that brings these benefits and hydrates me at the same time, without the caffeine.
I don’t drink the tea everyday now but I do put on a large pot a couple of times a week and enjoy it each time. You really should try it.
As you venture into oregano tea, the question of “Which oregano?” could be very important. The most common variety of oregano sold here in California as “oregano” as young plants or as seeds is Greek oregano, Origanum vulgaris hirtum. It has a bitter flavor. The bitterness is reduced in the tea itself but the resulting flavor of the tea really is lackluster. You can read more about Greek oregano here at Mountain Valley Growers.
The oregano variety we are enjoying here is one we know as “Veronica’s grandmother’s oregano.” Veronica’s grandmother was a fine Italian cook and this was her prized oregano. My mom took cuttings of it some 30 years ago and has been cooking with it ever since. Her oregano is actually an oregano/marjoram cross (here), known as Italian oregano. (Or we may have some child of it.) Both Greek oregano and Italian oregano are known for their antioxidant content and so these are both plants to get to know. (Here is an abstract from a 2001 study.) More than likely, the whole class of oreganos have something to offer. Italian oregano, however, really has it going on in the flavor department, in my opinion.
Which oregano should you buy for your tea?
For your own tea, buy the oregano you like because then you will actually drink the tea. Mountain Valley Growers offers a really nice resource on oregano flavors to give you a sense of the flavor diversity (here). You can even buy them from them online and start a collection. Alternatively, when you are in a nursery, pinch a leaf and the fragrance will give you a sense of whether it’s a plant you want to try. You might even nibble a small leaf. The fragrance and flavor may not be true to the final tea (as is the case with Greek oregano), but it will give you a sense. Buy the plants that seem interesting and give them a try. Have fun!
There is no right or wrong approach to your tea. The key point is to make it to suit yourself. You will get more out of the herb if you let your tea steep and allow the water to draw out the properties of the herb. I typically let mine steep over night and warm it the next day. The following is my approach. Yours may be different.