What is Liberty Tea?

Whoever wrote the adorable quote "Make Tea, Not War" does not know the history of tea (or is certainly making a jab at it). There is of course the long history of war over tea and silks in the Eastern part of the world. But closer to home, we have our very own Boston Tea Party. Angry Sons of Liberty disguised as Native Americans threw chests of tea off the British merchant ships in protest to the ridiculous tax Britain mandated. After the Boston Tea Party, colonists swore off tea from King George. However daily teatime could not be ignored so colonial ladies had to explore other options to replace tea. Some colonists got tea from Holland. Others made their own. They used what was readily available - roots from the river, flowers from the garden, fruits from their orchards, and leaves from their herbs. What we herbalists now deem "herbal infusions", the colonial ladies called "Liberty Tea".

Making Liberty Tea is a lesson in resourcefulness. It is an example of the colonist's persistence and cleverness. The Daughters of Liberty made do with what they had. Raspberry leaf, mint, sumac, and lemon balm were popular choices for liberty tea. They might use tree bark from the forest, certain seeds from vegetables, or edible flowers from the garden. 

The Daughters of Liberty with their foraged leaves and hot cups of herbs could teach us a thing or two. That was an early example of "voting with your dollars" before you could even vote. The colonial woman wanted their teatime and they were going to enjoy it - BUT with tea of their own making. It wasn't stubborn insubordination. It was clever resoluteness. There was a make-do attitude back then that my current society could afford to explore. Among instant gratification, one-click purchases and trash islands, there is a need for simplicity. Let us go back to our roots and use more of what we already have. 

In the true spirit of Liberty Tea, there is no recipe here. Like the colonials, we can use what we already have, correct? For posterity, I have included a list of herbs that the colonists might have used. Tweak as you see fit or can forage! This is a fun family activity. Either raid your kitchen cabinets and garden to create one big batch of tea together or let everyone make their own (taste-testing contest encouraged). Place all the jars or bowls of herbs in one place so everyone can get to it. 

Some ingredients used for Liberty Tea:

Rose Petals
Raspberry leaf (dried) *this was a favorite of colonials
Dried Berries
Willow bark 
Pine Needles
Lemon Balm
Fennel Seeds
Dill Seeds

All these herbs are available at Mountain Rose Herbs

I first heard mention of liberty tea in the American Girl Felicity series several years ago and have made this a couple times with the kids. Each time, we have some unique teas and it's always a really fun, alchemy-like experience for the kids. 

This year we also dressed up as Mohawks like the Sons of Liberty and had a our tea party while we read about the Boston Tea Party from A Child's First Book of American History (available from Beautiful Feet Books). I'm very pleased with the quality of the book and the living stories. Also if you want something fun, Pups of Liberty the Boston Tea-Bone Party is a really cute show on amazon and my kids really enjoyed it.

If you are not interested in creating your own tea but still want to enjoy Liberty Tea with your kids, I would suggest enjoying Raspberry Leaf tea also available on Mountain Rose Herbs as that is what most colonials enjoyed. Maybe allow the kids to add a spoonful of sugar or honey if they have not had it before!

How do you make Liberty Tea? 

It's really as simple as boiling water and pouring it over the herbs then straining. You don't need a fancy teapot - just a jar and fine mesh strainer (like these ones). The only difference was that colonists might take sumac and boil it for ten minutes to create a lemon-y tea. This boiling spices, bark, and berries is called "decoction" in the herbalist world (that's how chai is also made) and helps pull most of the flavor from the ingredients. You can't make decoctions out of more gentle herbs (hence why we use infusion).

Cheers! I hope you enjoy your liberty and drink it too!


This post contains some affiliate links from which I might make money at no cost to you.

You can also check out this post video on youtube!


  1. I could go for a cup of liberty breakfast tea, with a dash of milk!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Marshmallow Root Marshmallows (paleo, dairy-free, gluten-free)

A Forager's Library

Foraging Journal now available!