Tea of the Gods
On the mountains of the beautiful Greek isles (Crete, in particular) there grows wild
a romantic looking perennial with fuzzy gray-silver leaves and stems, topped by continuous clusters of little yellow flowering buds. This plant’s delicate demeanor is keenly balanced by her hardiness. She thrives in altitudes over 1000 meters in rocky crevices, needing little water, little soil, and no care from man. She is the Sideritis syriaca. Classically, shepherds had picked this herb to make tea while tending their flocks high on the mountainsides. (The infusion is also referred to as Greek Mountain Shepherd’s Tea).
Greek Mountain Tea is actually a locally generic term used for most any tea made from a great variety of wild growing herbs. More often than not, though, when someone says Greek Mountain Tea, they are referring to Sideritis syriaca, commonly known in her homeland as Malotira. There are over 100 species of the genus Sideritis, which belongs to the Labiatae (Mint) family, 13 of which are known to grow wild in the Greek mountains. Another abundant relation is the Sideritis scardia griseb.
Other Mountain Teas you will find are Tilia Europea (Linden Flower), Salvia triloba L. (Greek Sage), and Diktamo Eronda (Dittany of Crete), a member of the Oregano family. Wild Chamomile, wild Marjoram and wild Thyme also thrive.
Because of the accessibility and abundance of these herbs, the common practice is to live off the land. What you find is what you use. If you come across something consumable (a vegetable, a tea), pick it and have it that evening. Often, teas will be named for the mountain from where they were picked, or the village in which it is found. The brew of choice will also change by the season, depending on what’s growing. Most importantly, this live-off-the-land practice has served the Greeks well. The herbs that make up Greek Mountain Tea hold exceptional properties.
A Panacea, Certainly And Hippocrates, father of modern medicine (460-377B.C.) hailed the herbs used to make Mountain Tea as succors to the immune system and the respiratory system.