Late winter to early spring is one of my favorite times to be in the garden: the days are longer, the weather’s warmer, and the air is thick with the heady fragrance of flowers from our orange and mandarin trees. When I’m feeling pulled in multiple directions and need to decompress, even for just a few minutes, I simply stand under the canopy of my citrus tree and breathe it all in. It’s like having my own aromatherapy session; the scent is delicate yet overpowering all at once, and slowly I feel my spirits start to lift.
With their soothing properties, orange blossoms have historically been used to treat a host of maladies, including anxiety, lethargy, stress, depression, and insomnia. (Is it strangely convenient that their season just happens to coincide with Daylight Saving Time?) Orange blossoms also aid in relaxing colon functions and ridding the body of bad bacteria, making them a safe and natural remedy for indigestion, gas, and stomach ailments, especially in children.
While store-bought orange blossom water is typically used to impart these herbal benefits, I like to use fresh orange blossoms during the fleeting time they’re available. When you prepare them in hot water, they release their perfume in the air like a warm spring breeze that rolls through the house.
If you’re lucky enough to have an orange tree (or even a mandarin, tangerine, or grapefruit tree) in your yard, a small harvest of the lovely white flowers is all you need for a carafe of this special tea. (Be sure to give them a thorough yet gentle rinse before using.) After a long day, this orange- and mint-infused iced tea is exactly what I need for an afternoon pick-me-up.
Moroccan Orange Blossom Iced Tea
Makes 2 to 4 servings
4 cups water
4 teaspoons loose green tea
20 fresh orange blossoms
20 fresh spearmint leaves
1/4 cup sugar
Add the water, green tea, orange blossoms, and mint leaves to a tea kettle and bring to a boil. Remove the kettle from heat and let steep for about 5 minutes. Strain and transfer to a carafe, then stir in the sugar until dissolved. Chill for at least 1 hour. Serve the tea over ice.
If you want a more traditional tea, try a cup of Lebanese “white coffee,” or kahweh baida, a caffeine-free drink that originated in Beirut and is commonly served as a digestif to calm the tummy. You only need a handful of orange blossoms for this simple elixir. Enjoy it in the morning as a restorative herbal tea or sip a warm cup in the evening for a restful night’s sleep.
Orange Blossom Tea
Makes 1 serving
5 fresh orange blossoms
1 cup boiling water
Sugar or honey (optional)
Place the orange blossoms in a tea cup and pour the boiling water over them. Cover and let steep for about 5 minutes, then remove the blossoms. To sweeten the tea, stir in sugar or honey to taste.