When I started researching for tea shops/salons in Athens, I kept finding mentions of Greek Mountain Tea. Having no idea what it was, I resolved to find some of this stuff, try it and review it here. At first, I thought I had to locate a specialty shop in the capitol, but in fact this is no delicacy and can be bought most anywhere. Supermarkets, shops and a few said specialty shops…this can be easily had.
It’s simply the dried leaves and flowers of the Sideritis plant (ironwort). Allegedly, it’s a hardy plant that can grow with relatively little water or soil at high altitudes. One kind of the plant, called Sideritis raeseri, is actually cultivated exclusively in Greece, but other wild sorts are out there being picked, dried, thrown in boiling water and otherwise enjoyed.
Now on to how it tastes: my hopes were high for this tea. When I found so little tea culture in Athens, I thought at least I could make a unique discovery to share with my little corner of the tea world. Alas, it wasn’t to be. At least regarding taste. It’s not bad, but it’s truly nothing special. At all. The closest thing I could find to compare it with is Chamomile. Nothing against Chamomile. I’ve heard a bit of Chamomile daily can do wonders for your health.
Which is actually where this Greek Mountain Tea comes in again. They drink it when the temperature drops, which it apparently rarely does. According to http://greekfood.about.com/:
Mountain Tea is enormously popular in Greece, and used most often in winter when levels of physical activity decrease and colds, aches, and pains increase. It is said to have a positive effect on almost anything that ails but, most notably, it is used for colds, respiratory problems, digestion, the immune system, mild anxiety, and as an anti-oxidant. It is also used as an anti-inflammatory and to reduce fever.
So there you have it. It’s herbal tea. Because it doesn’t come from the tea plant, I know some of you won’t even go so far and call it a tea at all. I certainly don’t want to open that can of worms again. For lack of a better term, it’s tea. Oh, it’s also sometimes called Shepherd’s Tea, because that’s who brews it up in the mountains. Greek Mountain Tea or Shepherd’s Tea? It’s certainly not going to hurt you. Unless you’re allergic to Ironwort. In which case, stay away. Who’s allergic to Ironwort?