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Greek Mountain Tea

Prized for its medicinal benefits

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Malotira - Mountain Tea

Malotira: Mountain Tea from Crete

Photo © Jim Stanfield

In Greek: τσαϊ του βουνού (pronounced TSAH-ee too voo-NOO)

Greek Mountain Tea is made using the dried leaves and flowers of Sideritis plants (ironwort). The tea is aptly named: the plant used to make it is found on rocky slopes at elevations over 3,200 feet (1000 meters). These plants are hardy flowering perennials that have adapted to survive with little water and little soil. Only one type of this plant, Sideritis raeseri, is cultivated - and only in Greece; otherwise, this and other types are gathered in the wild.

On Crete, the common name for Mountain Tea is "malotira" (μαλοτήρα - pronounced mah-loh-TEER-rah), and almost every region of Greece has its own name for the brew, such as "Olympos tea," and "Parnassos tea," reflecting the name of the mountain where it grows. The most common English name other than Mountain Tea is "Shepherd's Tea," because Greek shepherds would use the plants to make a brewed tea while tending their flocks high in the hills.

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.

In Greece, it is sold in grocery shops, pharmacies, herb-and-spice shops, or it can be picked fresh and dried at home. Outside Greece, it is sold as "Greek Mountain Tea," or "Greek Mountain Shepherd's Tea," at specialty shops, and it can be found online.

Ready to Get Healthy? Let's Make Tea

  • 1/2 ounce of the dried leaves and flowers
  • 1 quart of boiling water

  • Pour boiling water over the tea and let steep for no longer than 10 minutes.
  • Strain and drink (with honey, sugar, or plain).

Serving suggestions: Serve Mountain Tea at breakfast or before retiring at night, with Kalamata (black) olives, feta cheese, and crusty bread.

Greek grandmother’s rule of thumb: At least one cup a day! Here's to your health!

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