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Tracy Griffen
Writer without portfolio

It’s Pure Leith, Mate


In life there are constants. Something you’ve always done, that is really the essence of you. I have always drunk mint tea and eaten oats. It’s what I do, and what keeps me going. Mint tea is my default drink. I love its freshness and palate cleansing properties.

All of which is to say: “Mint tea makes me happy!”

Mint (or mentha) belongs to the Lamiaceae family, which contains around 15 to 20 plant species, including peppermint and spearmint. Mint plants contain an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent called rosmarinic acid, as well as menthol and trace amounts of numerous nutrients.

The potential health benefits of mint are:

It may help digestive issues (IBS, tummy ache, over-eating)

It freshens the breath

Mint may help relieve tension headaches and migraine

It may alleviate sinus congestion

It has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties

It may give you more energy (in a different way from coffee)

It may help seasonal allergies, especially if grown locally

Apparently, it may help concentration, and making a pot of tea is an excellent procrastination technique if one is writing to a deadline!

I never really thought about it, then I realised that I enjoyed mint tea so much that it made sense to serve it in my studio (partly so I would always have mint tea for me). “Is that too weird?” I remember asking my other half.

So, a vacuum flask of homegrown mint tea was added to the client offering in the Griffen Fitness studio. Visitors could help themselves either to the jug of water or flask of tea. “It’ll be an interesting experiment,” I thought.

What I didn’t expect was that mint tea would be so popular that I’d be refilling it regularly throughout a working day, with customers asking where they could get a personal supply.

Over Lockdown, I was meeting people on the street, handing over a wee baggy of leaves. I started referring to it as ‘Pure Leith’ mint, and somehow the name stuck. Quite by accident Pure Leith mint tea became a ‘thing’.

In the garden mint is a great plant - it is robust, comes back every year, is loved by pollinators, and seems to keep pests at bay.

I have been growing enough to ensure a year-round supply for the studio. I dry stems of mint upside-down and handpick the whole leaves off. Six to eight fresh or dried leaves are popped in a teapot with boiling water and left to infuse. Then I fill up a warmed vacuum flask with freshly brewed mint tea for the day. It saves money on buying in tea, and continually boiling the kettle and… It smells amazing!

Many people know mint tea as a blend of gunpowder (black) tea with mint leaves. Certainly, in Morocco, that’s how it’s drunk. In restaurants there you’ll have your mint tea aerated as it’s poured from a silver teapot at great height into your tea glass. The more flamboyant the pour, the bigger the tip. It’s personal taste whether or not you have mint with black tea, however I prefer mine straight-up mint. Pure mint and nothing but the mint.

There’s a saying in business that if you do something you love, you’ll never work another day in your life. Growing, drying and packaging up mint is something I do as a hobby anyhow, so I’m quite chuffed to produce ‘Pure Leith’ mint tea on a larger scale...

This is not a sales plug - not allowed in this esteemed publication - as there’s such a limited supply this year that most of it is pre-sold.

However, I’m delighted to have a stall at my favorite market, Leith Market, on Saturday 23 September where we’ll have tastings. After that we’ll crank back into production next growing season. Maybe I should send some to Dame Prue Leith…

There’s so much going awry in the world, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed. The climate crisis is getting worse, and for years I was a protestor and environmental activist. That stressed me out, always being in opposition to something - and I’m not sure how effective it is.

Nowadays I spend my spare time growing as many plants as possible. It’s a very relaxing thing to do, and is hopeful. You may have seen the accidental tomatoes growing in my studio window.

The ‘reverse triffids’ were never meant to stay there, but they offer a green privacy screen from the hubbub of the street. I was impressed with the perseverance of the sunflowers grown in the tram planter outside Woodland Creatures in 2022.

A possible plan for 2024 is to release some mint babies out into Leith planters. Who knows? There may even be a map of where you can forage your own mint in a future issue… It is direct action and you don’t need anyone’s permission.

When all else goes to pot, boil the kettle and have a nice cup of (mint) tea.

Then get growing. And be the
change. ■


Twitter: @tracygriffen

Tracy’s making her own tea!


In business there’s a saying, if you do something you love, you’ll never work another day in your life


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