Originally published July 13, 2020
Updated April 18, 2021
One of my most anticipated times of the summer is when our blackberries come in. My plants are beginning to bloom now, and before long I'll be harvesting berries by the basketful We love to eat them fresh and I make and can many jars of jam each season. It really amazes me how many berries I pick each year.
Several years ago we planted six blackberry bushes. We chose the Apache thornless variety so our kids could get involved in the harvest without getting scratched. Last season I harvested between two and six cups of blackberries each morning for about two weeks, then it began to taper off. I love having them fresh and making jam, and I also freeze them to use in recipes later in the year. But I'm always looking for new ways to use them.
Each year I am able to make enough jam to last us until the next growing season, and I also make sure to freeze berries in individual portions for baking and other recipes through the winter. We eat them fresh every day, and I experiment with new ways to use the rest. Last year I found a delicious and simple way to use them in tea.
I try to limit the amount of sugar I consume each day, but this is a sweet treat that I just love. Enjoying a nice glass of ice-cold blackberry sage tea on the front porch, while watching the birds at the feeders, is my idea of a great afternoon. You could always add less sugar if you like or even omit the sugar completely.
Despite the sugar, this yummy tea offers some great health benefits. Black tea (which includes orange pekoe and many other store-bought bagged tea varieties) is full of antioxidants that fight cancer-causing cells, and it may offer some protection against cardiovascular disease. One cup of black tea also contains 200 milligrams of flavonoids, which help protect against disease.
According to The Spruce Eats, doctors recommend consuming 600 milligrams of flavonoids each day to get the full range of health benefits they offer. In just one cup of black tea, you've consumed 1/3 of that amount!
Blackberries are also incredibly nutritious. They contain many of the vitamins our bodies need, such as A, C, E, and many B vitamins. Much like black tea, blackberries are also rich in antioxidants. Studies have shown that blackberries may help protect against heart disease and cancer, and they may also boost brainpower. Who doesn't need a mental boost sometimes? Blackberries have also been shown to have antibacterial and antiviral properties. With all the uncertainties in today's world with COVID-19, anything antiviral sounds like a win to me! They may also have anti-inflammatory properties that can offer some protection against conditions such as arthritis. With all these benefits, what's not to like?
Sage is an herb in the mint family, and it's also high in- you guessed it- antioxidants. Much like tea and blackberries, sage can protect your body from cell-damaging free radicals. It has also been shown to improve cognitive abilities, lower cholesterol and blood glucose, and have anti-inflammatory properties. Sage also contains many minerals and vitamins to help boost your health.
Now that we've covered all the amazing benefits this tea has to offer, let's get down to the business of making it! This recipe will make two quarts of tea.
What ingredients will you need?
Black tea bags- I use five bags to make two quarts of tea.
Blackberries- I use about 3 cups of fresh or frozen berries.
Sage leaves- I like to use eight to ten good-sized leaves, and I cut them fresh off my plant. You could use dried leaves as well. I've never used ground sage, but I imagine it would work if you put it in a tea ball to contain it.
Sugar- I use 3/4 cup, but feel free to adjust this to your liking or even omit it.
Water- No tea without this! You'll need around eight cups total.
What equipment will you need?
A tea kettle or pot to boil the water- I like to use my vintage Corningware 6-cup tea kettle, but any kettle or pot will work as long as it holds enough water.
A pitcher to hold the tea while it steeps and to store your finished tea- I like to use my vintage Tupperware pitcher for this, but any two-quart pitcher will be fine.
A large bowl- you will need this to mix the berries and sugar together, and to steep the tea, berries, and sage together. Any bowl that is heat-proof will work. I use a (yep, vintage) Pyrex milk glass bowl.
A mesh strainer- you'll want to strain the fruit and seeds out of your tea when it's done.
A potato masher- for mashing the blackberries and sugar together.
A cooking spoon- for stirring, of course.
Steps to making your tea:
First, you'll want to place your blackberries into the large bowl and pour the sugar (if using) over them. Using your potato masher, mash the berries and sugar together until they've formed a thick juice or syrup. This will be thicker if you use sugar. Meanwhile, have the water boiling to make your tea. The photos below show these steps.
Place the tea bags into the pitcher, and once the water has boiled, remove it from the heat and pour it over the tea bags. Let it steep for approximately five minutes, then carefully remove the tea bags.
Place the sage leaves on top of the berry mixture in your bowl and pour the tea over all of it. Stir it well, then cover it loosely with a towel to keep dust out. Or kitties, if you have those like we do. Let it continue to steep for another two hours to fully extract all the flavors.
Once the tea is ready, remove the towel and pour it through the mesh strainer back into the pitcher. Using your spoon, press gently on the berry mixture in the strainer to press out all the tea. Once all the tea is in the pitcher, top it off to the full two quarts with cold water if needed. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week- if it lasts that long!
The pictures below show the tea after steeping for two hours (left), me pressing the berries in the mesh strainer (center), and the finished tea in the pitcher (right).
Sage- not just great for tea!
When you think of sage you likely think about traditional garden sage that you can find in the spice aisle at the grocery store. There are actually many different types of sage that offer that are great for culinary use or to plant in your garden. My friends over at Happy DIY Home recently published this amazing article called "23 Types of Sage Plants for Cooking and Splashes of Color" and it is an invaluable resource if you'd like to learn more about the many types of sage.
Did you know that sage is wonderful for companion planting or that it is deer resistant? How about that some varieties grow large enough to use as a shrub? You can learn more about these things and so much more by visiting Happy DIY Home!
I personally LOVE pineapple sage and while I've never used it in cooking, I plant one every year because the hummingbirds just love it. It is an essential plant in my pollinator garden. If you're interested in growing sage, I promise the wonderful folks over at Happy DIY Home can help you find a variety that will work for you!
This blackberry and sage summer tea is such a simple and delicious treat. It tastes so yummy, you won't even think about the health benefits it delivers. My kids love this tea, and even with the sugar I know it's much better for them than a soda. If you're looking for something unique for a gathering or just something tasty for yourself, make sure you give this a shot!
There are many other variations you could make, and I'd love to hear about any of your favorite summertime teas. Please tell me about them in the comments!