Greek mountain tea is one of the healthiest and most under appreciated plants in the world. It can be found in every home in Greece and it is also consumed throughout the Balkans, but in the English speaking world it is practically unheard of and only seems to have a following amongst Greek immigrants and students studying in Northern Europe and the United States of America.
Thanks to a few intrepid tea companies with connections to Greece, this tea seems to be gaining more traction in the UK and the US and as a result we are seeing many more searches for it, with countless more potential customers looking to learn how to brew Greek mountain tea, where to find it, and what makes it so special.
What is Greek Mountain Tea?
Greek mountain tea also goes by the names Sideritis, Ironwort and “Mountain Tea”. In Greek it’s τσάι του βουνού, which is pronounced “tsai tu vunu” (or “Chai Too Voo-Noo”) and literally means “Tea of the Mountain”.
It’s a fragrant tea that is often consumed with a generous serving of honey (Greek thyme honey is best, but we’re biased) and has a huge number of health benefits.
Where is it Grown?
Some Greek mountain tea varieties should be grown at an elevation of more than 1,000 feet, while others are grown at elevations of 700 feet. See our Sideritis Varieties page to learn more.
Sideritis needs drained soil, as well as the unique climate provided by being at altitude in countries like Greece. It is often grown on the slopes of mountains as this suits the slope and elevation requirements and the best Greek mountain tea is said to be the varieties grown on Mount Olympus.
Is Greek Mountain Tea Good for You?
Greek mountain tea is one of the healthiest teas that you can drink and it has been consumed for its health benefits for many thousands of years. It was being praised for its health benefits by the fathers of modern medicine during a time when modern civilisation was in its infancy, but it was also popular for many generations before that and has remained popular ever since.
To learn more about the health benefits of Greek mountain tea just visit our article on the subject. There is so much to discuss, so many studies to cover and benefits to to look into that we need a full article on the subject,
Where to Buy Greek Mountain Tea
There are many suppliers of Greek mountain tea on eBay, but they sell very low quality teas, they don’t tell you where it has been sourced from and in most cases it’s not even grown at the altitude required to actually call it Greek mountain tea. There are no long-established retail companies selling this tea in the UK or US, so it’s not something you’ll find being produced by a company you know well or a company that has existed for decades.
We’ve been keeping an eye on the marketplace for many years and we have seen it change. We’re constantly traveling between the US and the UK and no longer have the luxury of being able to buy quality Sideritis in Greece so we’re always on the lookout for new companies that can sell a quality product even Greeks would be proud to buy. There are a couple of them out there right now, including one new one, but at the time of writing we’re still waiting on orders from those companies so we can fully test their teas for ourselves.
Watch this space for reviews of these teas and (hopefully) for more info on buying the best Greek mountain tea in the UK and the US.
How to Make Greek Mountain Tea
Greek mountain tea is traditionally boiled, not steeped. The plant—leaves, stalks and all—is added to a pan of cold water, which is then brought to the boil. After a few minutes, when the water has taken on an amber hue, the tea is strained, sweetened with honey (and occasionally a squirt of lemon juice) and then served.
This ritual is somewhat alien to American and British tea drinkers. We’re used to tea bags and tea strainers. We drink more tea—Greece is a nation of coffee drinkers—so it’s only natural that we’d prefer things a little quicker and simpler. Fortunately, Greek mountain tea can be just as quick and just as simple as your favorite herbal blend. Just add the recommended serving to a tea kettle or strainer, steep in hot water for 3 to 5 minutes and then sweeten to taste.
The longer you steep the better it will be, but over-steeping will make the tea bitter.
And whatever you do, don’t throw that used tea away. Even when it has been thoroughly boiled to within an inch of its life, it can still retain enough flavor to make another serving. The second brew will require a longer steep, but you can also do as the Greeks do, throwing that used tea in a pan and boiling yourself a fresh batch.
Is Greek Mountain Tea Psychoactive?
Sideritis does have a calming effect and it has been (wrongly) described as being psychoactive. In fact, one tea supplier we used in the past has a bad review on their sales page complaining about “unexpected” sedative effects, ones that the reviewer actually compared to prescription tranquilizers.
As regular drinkers of Greek mountain tea we can confirm that it does have an ever-so-slightly calming vibe to it. But the same can be said for many teas. It’s the effect that relaxing with a hot drink often triggers and one that seems to be slightly increased with Greek mountain tea. However, there is just no comparing this to tranquilizers, prescription or not. We’re guessing that this reviewer was either trolling or had been spiked with a handful of Valium.
Comparing Greek mountain tea to tranquilizers is like comparing green tea to cocaine. So, if you’re worried about experiencing such effects, don’t be. And if you were hoping to experience them, then we’re sorry to disappoint!