I thought I'd played coffee pretty well. I didn't start drinking hot drinks until I was well into my thirties. While the rest of you suckers were slurping through jars of instant to get through your GCSEs, I was holding back on the caffeine front (if not the fags and booze). Then, as forty staggered over the horizon - yawning and rubbing its aching joints - I unleashed the caffeine.
Preparation had begun with suckling from buckets of decaf soy latte with sugar-free hazelnut syrup, which I now appreciate is about as many types of wrong as you can fit in one cup. Then we went to Crete and I wasn't about to ask a Greek for decaf so OHMYGODCAFFEINE! I CAN SEE SOUNDS! NOBODY TOLD ME! Ok, everybody told me and it's widely documented in popular culture, but I spend a lot of time outside, walking and gardening and thinking my thoughts, and I can be resistant to such things. Because I am a woman of extremes, I went straight to triple espressos - unsullied by milk or sugar - without passing cappucino. I swear, I got more done in the hour after my first ever espresso than in the previous three decades combined. And it involved a lot of caps lock. CAFFEINE IS AMAZING.
At around about the same time I also stopped not drinking alcohol because, in a reversal of many people's use of black coffee to sober up, I found an evening glass of wine was sometimes helpful to counteract the caffeine jitters. While I love the taste, I hate the dopey, clumsy, soporific effects of alcohol but I hate not sleeping too. This didn't strike me as a wholly healthy way to achieve stasis, even though most people don't seem to think twice about it. I also hate being dependent on anything and after just a few weeks of having a triple espresso every morning, I went without one and immediately developed an almighty headache that even made my face, neck and shoulders hurt. NO-CAFFEINE SUCKS! I experimented to see how long it would last. On day five I gave up and had the damn coffee, after which the pain immediately dissipated. Using stimulant plant extracts to facilitate frenetic bouts of writing and creating is one thing, requiring them just to get out of bed is quite another.
So I decided to put coffee back in its place and rediscover some other herbal infusions - ones I can also grow myself for free and fewer food miles. I had three different needs from them: the soothing ritual of making a hot drink, a stimulating alternative to caffeine for mornings, a calming counterbalance to caffeine for evenings.
I don't like black or green tea and tend to only drink mint and lemon balm which I grow in profusion and which are mildly enlivening/calming respectively, but I get bored of them so I bought Homegrown Tea for some inspiration. I also went to Plants with Purpose and The Secret Herb Garden for legendarily pacifying chamomile to go along with the borage I already grow, and the recommended more palatable versions of allegedly mentally stimulating sage (pineapple and tangerine) and thyme (orange).
I love my little moka pot and cafetière with knitted cosy, despite the latter being widely mocked by the teenagers of the house ('Most middle class item ever invented' apparently). Rather than making my tisanes in a tea pot, I experimented with infusing herbs in the French press and tougher, waxier ones in the espresso pot. Both seem to work excellently. The taste of the thymes and sages takes some getting used to as a beverage, but is not at all unpleasant.
As with puddings, I've never been a fan of fruit flavours other than citrus, and it occurred to me that my favourite flower flavours might translate to tisanes too. I have plenty of lavender now and am planting more roses this winter so it just feels luxurious rather than wildly extravagant. I think a lot of people might find it to be too much like drinking bath water, but I like it. Those associations are probably soothing too.
Liversidge suggests honeysuckle and I was immediately smitten. I bought two new honeysuckles last year to replace the ancient one I cut back to the ground, but that one came back with a vengeance - threatening to engulf the whole house. I also decided to try and train a white honeysuckle to grow from elder to elder next year, so honeysuckle should be plentiful enough to consume. How beautiful does honeysuckle tea sound? I like to have one floating on top for visual effect.
None of these cups of slightly scented water will facilitate five villanelles and a screenplay before breakfast but you'll probably sleep better.