Summer is on its way—the easy breezy time of year when we get to ponder creative ways to hydrate. It’s a relaxed time of cooling our rising pitta while drinking something frosty by the pool. This is the time of year to make sure we’re well hydrated with water, as water is indeed life, but it’s also perfect for getting creative and exploring the world of herbal teas, tonics, and coolers!
Herbal teas, tonics, and coolers are easy to make and they keep in the refrigerator for days. They are revitalizing for the system because they calm our nerves while bringing down our internal body temperature. You can be super creative when making them, and there are no rules as to what you can or can’t add. Kids love to drink them and they will also enjoy helping to make them as a fun afternoon project. They can be made with a little green or black tea for a caffeine boost, like the way my grandmother in the south would make her famous “Southern Sweet Tea.” Or they can be simple tonics made with herbs from the garden—like mint, tulsi, lemon balm, or nettles— then placed in a large glass jar to steep. They can be made with coconut milk and mint, or berries, citrus, and lemonade—whatever you have on hand that will make a sweet, refreshing, and nourishing cooler. The main thing to remember when thinking about creating them is to have fun doing it! You can use what’s seasonal in your backyard home garden, your farmers market, or grocery store produce section for delicious and local summer brews.
4 Ways to Prepare Your Drink
Decoction: This method is best for roots, barks, and hard seeds. Examples would be licorice, burdock, fennel, cumin, and sassafras. For a decoction, cover with a lid and simmer for about 10–15 minutes. Strain, cool, and refrigerate. It will stay fresh for about a week.
Sun (or Moon) Tea: My favorite drink for summer when the sun is at its strongest. This tea making method works best for fresh leaves and flowers, and can also work well with many types of black, green, or white teas. Gather your dried or fresh herbs—feel free to use tea bags for this method as well—and place them in a large covered glass container. (You can find these large glass containers at the store. Often named “sun tea jars,” they are for this specific tea-making purpose.) Cover with cool, clear, filtered water. You can add fruit slices or berries as well. Let it steep in a nice sunny spot for at least a few hours, or all night under the moon.
Infusion: Typically for healing tonics, this widely used method involves using dried herbs and hot water and steeping the herbs to extract the flavor and nutrients. Boil water and add in the herbs, and let steep for 5–10 minutes, depending on the herb. Then strain and chill. The longer you steep the stronger it will be. For strong herbal tonic infusions, it can steep for four to ten hours. Sweeten if desired with local raw honey or organic sugar.
Coolers: Simple, fun drinks that can be made by adding ingredients together and serving chilled or blending with frozen pineapple or ice. They are made with varied ingredients, such as herbs, nut milks, fruit, and sometimes sweeteners. While Ayurveda typically recommends against using ice or consuming cold foods, the heat of summer is the most appropriate time to enjoy one of these cold drinks. If your digestive fire (agni) is strong and you are generally healthy, the body can tolerate an otherwise poor food combination on occasion.
3 Easy DIY Recipes
Here are three of my favorite summer tonic recipes to provide you with inspiration for the season to come. I recommend using organic ingredients whenever possible.
“Lime in da Coconut” Cooler
This was created in the heat of Hawaii as a light and refreshing cooler.
- 1 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
- 1 cup coconut water
- ¼ cup water
- 2 squeezed limes or 2 tablespoons lime juice
- Lime pulp from squeezed limes (optional)
- 4 sprigs fresh mint
- Pinch of mineral salt
- 2 tablespoons agave syrup
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. At the end, add agave syrup to taste. If another sweetener is preferred, coconut sugar or simple syrup are delicious choices. Serve chilled.
Blackberry Basil Lemonade
The sweetener for this recipe can be anything you prefer—from honey to coconut sugar, or cane sugar to agave syrup. I found either cane sugar or agave to taste the best for this recipe.
- 4 ounces blackberries (fresh or frozen) or 2–3 handfuls, if you’re picking yourself
- Handful fresh basil leaves, off the stem
- 4 large lemons squeezed
- Lemon pulp from squeezed lemons
- 4 cups water
- 1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
Blend all ingredients together with a handheld immersion blender or countertop blender. Sweeten to taste and serve chilled. Serves 4
Garden Tulsi Sun Tea
Gather all these fresh ingredients from the garden or the farmers market. Add to a large glass container and brew 3–6 hours in a nice sunny spot. Sweeten to taste and enjoy!
Any of the ingredients can be substituted for whatever is available, and the quantities are very flexible. Experiment to discover what combinations you enjoy the most.
- ½ cup fresh tulsi leaves
- 2–3 green tea bags of your choice
- ¼ cup lavender flowers
- ¼ cup nettles
- Handful fresh mint
- Handful lemon balm
- 3 tablespoons raw local honey
- 10 cups water
Combine all ingredients (except sweetener) into the sun tea jar or large covered glass container. Brew for at least 3 hours, and not more than 6, outside in the sunshine. Sweeten to taste. This will make a large quantity and will save in the refrigerator for 3–5 days.
Remember to enjoy the process of making these teas, tonics, and coolers, and improvise creatively with the ingredients. There’s truly no wrong way to make them!
With a little information and a bit of inspiration we can begin to get creative in the kitchen. Whether it’s cucumber water or ginger lemonade, there are so many ideas for fresh and healthy drinks this summer. Have fun and enjoy!