Good Morning Ted and Jody:
I am about to clip my third batch of peppermint leaves this morning. The first two clippings have produced about a quart of dry leaves. The measurement is imprecise as one apparently measures dried herb/tea and foodstuffs by weight. I have a new scale in transit from the seller to me so will have a reliable way to quantify my harvest by Monday (tracking takes most of the guesswork out of when things will arrive).
I have clipped only leaves. On the first clipping I stuffed the fresh stems into a mesh bag and submerged them in a gallon of water. After two days, there was no perceptible odor of peppermint from the stems. There was no color change. There is still no color change after five days, but the brew is now beginning to smell like peppermint and it is getting a bit cloudy—a long time to brew with fresh stems. Besides, I have propagated mint plants by putting a stem, granted with leaves still attached, in a glass of water and eventually it developed roots. So, I got to thinking that perhaps, one needed to dry stems to get the flavor out of them—you know, fresh water in, peppermint infused water out and a gradual equalization over a few hours. So, late yesterday, with a batch of freshly dried stems, I dumped them in a quart jar and set them out over night to see what happens. Even without sunlight with which to brew, this morning there is light color in the quart jar and the distinctive smell of peppermint. So, that tells me that stems add more than just roughage to a peppermint mix intended for tea. However, I shall continue to clip leaves and segregate leaves from the woody parts of the stem. But I shall dry the stems and save them separately.
As you recall, Nancy told me that mice do not like peppermint. Indeed, I looked it up on line and http://www.aaanimalcontrol.com/professional-trapper/mouserepellents.html among other evidence (unfortunately, Nancy, like all of us operates on hearsay and once she, like all of us, believe something it is fact regardless of the facts). So, in response to Nancy’s insistence that peppermint keeps mice out, I put pots with peppermint in them near every place a mouse might find entry into the house. Since we got mice only in one location, under the bathroom sink, I put a peppermint teabag under the bathroom sink. Then since peppermint loses its aroma when exposed to air over time, I marked the calendar to replace the bag under the bathroom sink. Now hanging peppermint tea bags is a bit of a contortionist act for a 72-year-old. So, I am going to weave peppermint stems into little mats that I can put down under the sink for mouse deterrence. That should keep Nancy happy and allow me to have more peppermint tea.
It turns out that peppermint tea is a healthy drink I actually like. About three months ago, I switched from drinking caffeine-free, diet cola to drinking sun brewed peppermint tea. When I switched to peppermint tea my blood sugar went down a bit despite the fact that I stopped one med I had been taking for years to control it. Indeed, on days when I am on the road and not getting my peppermint tea, I notice the change in blood sugar readings so I have learned to take peppermint tea when we go to Portland or anyplace for a day or so. Regardless of the mouse repellent properties of peppermint tea, by having all of those peppermint plants in pots around the house to keep mice away, a-half-an-hour of cutting and then setting the leaves out in the sun on screens could keep me in peppermint tea when the stash of Carrington Tea I have purchased runs out.
Back in May when I was making the transition from diet, caffeine-free cola to peppermint tea, I paid close attention to prices of tea. The weight ranges from .7 of an ounce to 1.2 (or so) ounces for a box of 20 (or so) tea bags full of peppermint for tea. Prices range from 99₵/box to well over $3/box. I tried several brands. The differences were in packaging and strings. Packaging ranged from individual tea bags wrapped in foil packets to all the bags stuffed into an odor proof bag of one type or another. Most tea bags have strings. Carrington Tea does not have stings; it comes with two bags attached to each other. As a side issue, I noticed that when I sun brewed a gallon of tea with bags with strings, I tended to get a lot more tea particles floating about and eventually becoming sediment. However, with the non-string, Carrington bags, I neither noticed as many tea particles floating about nor as much sediment. I was delighted that the Carrington Tea was solidly peppermint tea, non-stringed, and cheapest (I bought Walmart out in six stores locally. They have restocked).
In brewing the tea, I place ten tea bags (five pairs) in the bottom of a gallon jar, add water, sit in the sun for the day, cool on the kitchen cabinet, then refrigerate. I find, that if I clean the containers carefully, rinse with a bit of distilled vinegar, then rinse the vinegar out prior to brewing, my sun brewed peppermint tea remains clear and does not seem to develop either cloudiness or much sediment. I have begun to use gallon jars fitted with spouts at the bottom as there is always some sediment, and I have become a persnickety peppermint tea drinker.
Now, that I understand the process, I am wondering how I can package this stuff cheaply and enter the peppermint tea market. As I see it the biggest hurdle will be to find a cheap way to package the peppermint tea to preserve freshness and not frighten any errant mice on its journey to buyers.
Warmest regards, Ed