Tea Time: A Modern Herbal Brunch (with recipes!)

A modern herbal brunch

Jill Henderson ~ Show Me Oz

This is the final installment of a three-part series on the history and use of teas around the world. In today’s final episode, we are celebrating America’s modern twist on “English High-Tea” with an entire menu of scrumptiously super easy recipes that will turn any tea time into the party of the season! Let’s go!

Not Your Mother’s Tea

If you have not dared to throw a tea party for fear of going about it all wrong, or if a formal party is not your cup of tea, by all means let your hair down! Gone are the days of the rigid protocols of Miss Manners and in are fun, festive gatherings filled with color and flair. To start things off on the right foot, begin by leaving dainty bone china in the cupboard. Instead, go for the shabby chic look of colorful, even mismatched plates and cups. The whimsy of the bright colors will immediately convey to your guests that this is definitely not your mother’s tea.

Our herbal brunch menu follows the classic lines of a traditional tea time with a fresh herbal twist. When throwing an herbal brunch tea keep in mind that the food and drinks served should compliment one another. If you hold your herbal brunch in the summer, focus on using herbs, spices and edible flowers like lemon balm, mint, rose and lavender. These flavors are light and fresh to the palette and reflect the fresh flavors of summer.  The same can be said for the types of food you serve. Spring and summer herbal brunches should include fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables and lighter entrées made with meat proteins like chicken, fish and tuna.

Equally, fall or winter brunch teas should reflect the bounty of that season by using rich, warming herbs and spices such as sage, tarragon, horseradish and bay along with seasonal favorites like buttery winter squash, ham and hearty cheeses. Keeping the flavors of your food and drink in harmony will go a long way to making your herbal brunch tea a truly memorable event.

And when it comes to serving your guests, do it family style with plates of treats passed around the table or sitting area or simply let your guests serve themselves buffet-style. Either way, the keys to a successful herbal brunch are good food, good friends and lively conversation.

The Menu

Icy Mint Lemonade
Orange Liqueur Infused Chocolate Strawberries
Basil Pesto Roll Ups with Onion and Tomato
Rosemary Cheddar Biscuits with Garlic Butter
Basil Salad with Watermelon and Blueberries
Classic Herb Quiche
Brownie Mint Trifle with Strawberries
Hot or Cold Teas

Icy Mint Lemonade

1 ½ cups sugar
2 cups water
1 cup fresh mint leaves
4 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (approximately 10 lemons)
2 cups ginger ale
2 cups cubed ice
Crushed ice
Fresh lemon slices
Fresh mint sprigs

In a small saucepan, boil 2 cups of water. Add sugar and stir until. Cool for 15 minutes. To the sugar syrup add bruised mint leaves and lemon rind. Cover and steep for one hour. Strain syrup into a large pitcher and add the fresh lemon juice, several lemon slices and the remaining water. Refrigerate until needed. When ready to serve, add the ginger ale and several cups of cubed ice. Serve over crushed ice in tall glassed and garnish with a lemon slice and fresh mint sprigs. Yield: about 3 quarts.

Orange Liqueur Infused Chocolate Strawberries

1 pint of medium-large strawberries
1 cup Hershey’s Milk Chocolate chips
1 tablespoon shortening
¼ cup orange liqueur or orange brandy
Foam block
Marinade injector

Wash and dry strawberries. In a small double boiler, slowly melt chocolate chips and shortening. Stir until smooth. Insert a toothpick into the leafy end of each strawberry and dip bottom third into melted chocolate. Allow excess to run back into the pan. Push the toothpick into the foam block and allow chocolate to cool. Do not store in the refrigerator. Before serving, fill the marinade injector with liqueur or brandy and insert the needle at the leafy end and push down into the center of the berry. Inject a very small amount of liqueur, taking care not to overfill. Place on a decorative plate and serve within the hour. Yield: 1 pint

Basil Pesto Roll Ups with Horseradish Jack

6 – 8-10” plain, whole wheat or tomato-flavored flour tortillas
1 – 8 oz jar basil pesto
1 large Vidalia or red onion, thinly sliced
2-3 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 cups grated horseradish jack cheese
Fresh basil sprigs (garnish)

Cover each tortilla with 2 tablespoons of pesto and top with 2-3 slices each onion and tomato. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Roll tortilla into a tube, taking care to roll firmly and evenly. Cut off the uneven and slice the roll into three even pieces. Insert a toothpick into the loose edge to hold the roll closed. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. These roll ups can be made several hours ahead of time. Serve on a platter with fresh sprigs of basil as garnish. Yield: about 18 roll ups

Basil Salad with Watermelon and Blueberries

2-3 cups fresh basil, torn (not cut)
1 medium seedless watermelon cut in 1” cubes (about 4 cups)
1 cup fresh blueberries
⅓ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently until blended. Cover and chill one hour or until ready to serve. Serve the same day to avoid a watery salad.

Suggestions: This salad is all about the fresh basil, so don’t be afraid to use lots of it! To prevent blackening of fresh basil, tear it into piece with your hands. Cutting fresh basil with a knife will make it turn black.

Rosemary Cheddar Biscuits with Garlic Butter

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
½ cup butter
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely chopped
1 cup buttermilk
Parchment paper
Garlic butter (recipe follows)

In a medium bowl, blend flour, baking powder, salt and rosemary together. Cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in the cheese until evenly distributed. Using a gentle folding motion, work in just enough of the buttermilk to moisten the flour mix evenly and bring the dough together. The dough should be light and moist. Measure out each biscuit with a regular soup spoon, dropping each onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet 2” apart. Bake at 350° for 10-13 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not overcook. Serve with cold garlic butter. Yield: 24-30 biscuits.

Garlic Butter
1 stick of salted butter, softened
¼ teaspoon salt
4-6 toes garlic, minced

Blend garlic, salt and butter in a small bowl until combined. Transfer to a clean serving bowl or press into a butter mold. Cover and refrigerate at least three hours before serving. If allowed to sit overnight, the garlic flavor becomes more pronounced.

Deep-Dish Cheese and Herb Quiche

1 package (2) 12” deep dish pie shells
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup Swiss or Jack cheese, grated
½ cup Vidalia or red onion, minced
4 large mushrooms, sliced
½ lb baby spinach, chopped
2 tablespoon butter
6 large eggs
½ cup of Ricotta cheese
1 cup half and half
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
½ teaspoon dried dill leaf
½ teaspoon dried marjoram
½ teaspoon dried thyme

Place one pie crust in a 12” deep-dish pie plate and sprinkle evenly with the grated cheeses. In a large pan, sauté the onion and mushroom in butter until almost tender. Add the spinach and toss until wilted. Let cool. In a large bowl or food processor, blend all of the remaining ingredients until smooth. Stir in the onion mixture and pour slowly over the grated cheese. Do not over fill. Bake quiche at 400° for 40-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the quiche is firm to the touch. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes. Quiche can be served hot or cold. Garnish with a light sprinkle of fresh white cheese and parsley. Yield: 8 servings.

Suggestion: This recipe can be used to make mini quiches in a muffin tin, or sheet quiche in a baking pan. For individual quiches, roll out both pie crusts and cut into 12 rounds with a 3 ½” cookie cutter. Press the rounds into the muffin tins, fill and bake at 400° for 10-15 minutes or until set. For a sheet quiche, layer both pie crusts in a 9×13 baking pan so they overlap in the center. Trim to fit and use trimmings to fill any holes. Fill and bake at 400° for 30-35 minutes.


Dessert should be served with one or two hot herbal teas, such as fresh mint or raspberry, and one black dessert tea, such as Darjeeling, with optional cream, sugar and honey.

Brownie Mint Trifle with Strawberries

½ cup sugar
¼ cup water
4 cups fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 – 1 lb 2.4 oz. package brownie mix, prepared
2 quarts strawberries
3 tablespoons sugar
2 cups heavy cream
Fresh mint sprigs

In a medium saucepan bring water and sugar to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the mint leaves. Cover and steep for 15-20 minutes, then strain. Refrigerate until cold.

Prepare the brownies in the largest pan allowed by the instructions on the package (a 9” square pan should yield 16 brownies). Allow to cool completely. Cut brownies into rounds using a 2 ½” cookie cutter. Set aside.

Hull the strawberries and slice into a large bowl. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of sugar and stir. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whip the cream until very firm. Gently fold in the cold mint syrup. If the cream softens, whip it again until stiff peaks form.

When ready, layer the ingredients into one large trifle bowl or individual parfait cups in this order: brownie, whipped cream, strawberries (with juice). Repeat layers and finish with whipped cream. Garnish with a few strawberry slices and a sprig of mint. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Yield: 8 servings.

If you would like to learn more about herbs – how to grow, use or prepare for herbal remedies or to season your special dish – be sure to check out my book, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs. This is one herb book that no herb lover should be without!

(This series was first published in Llewellyn’s 2015 Herbal Almanac.)

Happy tea time!


The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs

Learn how to grow and use the world’s oldest, safest, and most medicinal herbs with this easy step-by-step guide!  From starting seeds to preparing home remedies, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs is a treasured resource that you will turn to time and time again.

Available in the Show Me Oz Bookstore.
Look inside!

Jill Henderson is an artist, author, and the editor of Show Me Oz  Her books, The Healing Power of Kitchen HerbsThe Garden Seed Saving Guide and A Journey of Seasons and Illuminati Agenda 21 can be found in the Show Me Oz Bookstore.  Jill is a featured columnist for Acres USA and a contributing author to Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac and her work has appeared in The Permaculture Activistand The Essential Herbal.

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2 responses to “Tea Time: A Modern Herbal Brunch (with recipes!)

  1. Great recipes, thank you Jill always learning from you. I will try and share something as well with you, how to make Turkish tea and breakfast, hopefully the short video will upload here with the step by step instructions.

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