Origin: South Asia and tropical Australia
Growing Conditions: Humid tropics to milder temperate regions
Flavor Profile:Lemon with a hint of rose
Part: Lower stalk and leaves
Use: Herbal tea balancer, medicinal, aromatic, and culinary
Best Combination: Always with flower and fruit herbs
Preparation: Dried or fresh leaves
Lemongrass tea is one of those herbal teas you probably wouldn't drink by itself. Lemongrass (Cymbopogan citratus) is a great herbal tea balancer when combined with the flowers of hibiscus, chamomile, or lavender. Even fruits like pomegranate and goji go well with lemongrass. Whats a herbal tea balancer? It's usually a smooth herb that acts as a mild compliment to more astringent herbs. Think of lemongrass paired with the more bitter hibiscus. The same applies to mild oatstraw or alfalfa paired with the astringent raspberry.
Where does lemongrass get it's lemon flavor despite being a grass (not an actual lemon)? I wondered the same thing when I first bought a simple herbal tea blend containing lemongrass. You can find the answer in the grass' main chemical ingredient called citral. What rivals lemongrass tea in popularity? Lemongrass essential oil. When steam distilled the citral becomes concentrated and produces a fragrant lemon scent. Okay, it all makes sense. You can make an even better balancer for your next herbal tea by simply using two drops of lemongrass oil (don't go overboard with plant oils though).
So what parts of lemongrass contain so much aroma and flavor for herbal tea? Look no further than the top leaves of lemongrass. The slightly broad leaves are easy pulled from the ground and finely chopped for drying or using fresh. Since I live in a four season climate I have to buy my lemongrass online in-bulk so unfortunately I can't have the fresh C. citratus variety. But everytime I've used dried lemongrass it has a similiar consistency of dried lemon balm.
The true-to-citrus flavor and scent of lemongrass doesn't take much brewing to enjoy. You can use it similiar to lemon balm and the lemongrass keeps mostly the same way. The leaves are finely chopped and placed in a glass spice jar or a small plastic bag. I brew the leaves for five minutes or less to allow the flavor to balance out the other herbs in the tea blend.
Dried or fresh? Lemongrass is naturally high in oil content. But you can really enjoy it either way. I only use it dried and the flavor is always fine.
Lemongrass is easy to brew due to the fragrant top leaves that hold on to their flavor for weeks and weeks (when stored away from open air). You can also use the lower stalks on lemongrass herb, but thats usually reserved for cooking.
Lemongrass is essentially added to tea blends for it's balancing ability and aroma. Earlier I placed it in the smooth category because it has a milder flavor and appearance than say hibiscus. But that doesn't mean lemongrass is any less useful than other herbs.
Medicinally, lemongrass is a cooling herb making it a wonderful digestive aid and anti-inflammatory. The citral (along with other compounds like cineole and citronellal) makes this otherwise plain-looking grass a well-rounded aid in warding off infections and a true everyday antioxidant. Traditional herbalism considered volatile oil-rich plants like lemongrass to be "nourishing" meaning rich in nutrients and antioxidants. And so safe for everyday drinking.
So what is the best blend for lemongrass?
While lemon balm overwhelms the other herbal flavors and beneficial properties, lemongrass strikes a nice chord. A citrusy flavor with notes of rose and some more cultivated flower. Add this to the astringent flavors found in flowers and fruits.
My favorite blends contain hibiscus, rosehips, vanilla, black raspberry, and lemongrass due to the hints of citrus mixing with the flowery herbs. The flower blends mainly contain hibiscus along with a few other flowers like chamomile and lavender.
The fruit blends are mainly red (and black) raspberry, pomegranate, citrus, and goji along with a dozen other berries. You can try a combination of blueberry, bilberry, acai, cherry, grape, and blackberry to find your ideal lemongrass tea.
Essential Oil-Bearing Grasses: The genus Cymbopogon pg. 153
J Adv Pharm Technol Res. 2011 Jan-Mar; 2(1): 3–8.