You can’t go anywhere in Israel and in many parts of the Middle East without enjoying a fresh herbal tea. Yeah, none of the dried out flakes of herbs planted years ago for the Mediterraneans. Just grab a few branches of herbs, wind them in a circle and pour on the hot water. Add a spoon of honey for sweetness. They like tea fresh, the flavor abundant and clear in the Middle East.
Over the years in Israel I have drank a lot of herbal tea, often just picked right from a grandma’s garden. I now have a little garden of my own and always recommend zuta levona as the best new tea to impress your guests.
Zuta levona (or זוטה לבנה or זוטא לבנה in Hebrew) in English/Latin has a clunky set of names, such as Micromeria fruticosa, White micromeria or White-leaved Savory and in Arabic is known as ashab a-shai (عشب الشاي). The tea can be bought as dried leaves in local spice markets (ask for it) but it is best when grown fresh. It has a clean, clear mint taste fit for serving a prince or princess.
Image above via Flora of Israel
Mentioned in the Hebrew holy text called the Mishnah as qoranit, the plant contains a high concentration of the essential oil pulegone and isomenthol, known for medicinal properties.
Folk remedies suggest it is good for treating abdominal pains, eye infections, heart disorders, high blood pressure, exhaustion, colds and open wounds.
Ask in your local nursery in the Levante region for a small seedling which will grow into a shrub. It makes a delightful tea that you will find nowhere else in the world. If you are pregnant, it is not advised to drink this medicinal herb which contains pulogene, dangerous for pregnancies and nursing.
You can also chop it up and add it to your Israeli salad or to your roasting fish.
Zuta grows wild in the Galilee region and grows velvety, fingernail-sized leaves not unlike sage, but much more delicate in appearance and tear-dropped in shape.