We can never resist trying a new (to us) tea, so when we came across olive leaf tea at the Pearl Farmers Market, we quickly snatched up a bag of the silvery-green leaves. Have you ever sipped olive leaf tea? Although olive leaf tea is new to us, it has been around for quite some time. Ancient Mediterranean cultures drank it, and in recent decades olive leaf tea (and extract) has experienced a surge in popularity as a medicinal supplement. Studies have shown that olive leaves have five times the antioxidant capacity of Vitamin C and twice that of green tea. The leaves are also said to have antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. Health claims range from curing the common cold to fighting cancer.
We have no idea whether any of this is true, so to us the most important question is: how does it taste? After simmering the leaves in water for 10 minutes (2 tablespoons of leaves to 8 ounces of water) and then straining, the resulting brew is mellow and smooth, reminiscent of green tea with a hint of sweet olive flavor. We have enjoyed it both hot and chilled, and with the addition of a few dried citrus peels (delicious!). Longer simmering times are said to release more of the phytochemical oleuropein, but this also makes the tea more bitter.
Emily Ho is a writer, recipe developer, and educator. She lives in Los Angeles, where she teaches classes on food preservation, wild food, and herbalism. Emily is a Master Food Preserver and founder of LA Food Swap and the international Food Swap Network.
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