Recipe: Iced Lemongrass Tea with Thai Basil; a Dreamy Tropical Jungle, Steps from the Back Door

A tropical escape, at home: A chaise made up with Chinese silks, a vase of fragrant tuberoses, and a glass of iced lemongrass tea on a silver tray.

A tropical escape, at home: A chaise made up with
Chinese silks, a vase of fragrant tuberoses, and a glass
of iced lemongrass tea on a silver tray.

Fay rolled by us, dropping solid sheets of rain, crackling lightning and the odd tornado or two.

Today, we could be in the tropics. The ground is steaming, the banana has unfurled another surfboard-sized leaf, and white butterfly petals are emerging from pointy ginger buds.

All that’s missing is a python slithering through the billowing waves of lime-green potato vines.

Do you hate the word staycation as much as I do?

Actually that’s what we’re doing this weekend. I can’t imagine a better plan, since there’s a dreamy tropical jungle waiting right outside the French doors. Right now I’m looking up at the witchy angel’s trumpets dangling from a towering brugmansia. A black ruffled elephant ear, veined with purple, shades my laptop. Overhead, a whirring hummingbird sips nectar from the luscious blossoms of an apricot canna.

And that’s just the beginning.

Are you interested? Here’s my personal recipe for an exotic escape—without leaving home.

Jungle: 37 tropical plants (and counting), drenched with sun and rain, erupting like leafy giants from a collection of terracotta and glazed pots.

A place to relax:
One comfortable chaise made up with Chinese silks, Indian shawls.

Fragrance: A huge vase of tuberoses, happily in season now. The intoxicating scent will carry you far, far away, maybe even to Bali.

Reading: H.L. Hudson’s 1916 classic, Green Mansions, about a haunting romance in the Venezuelan jungle. (Or watch the 1959 movie, Rima the Bird Girl, with Audrey Hepburn and Anthony Perkins.)

Listening: Coco de Mer (2002) Adam Plack’s otherworldly fusion of European opera, sexy dance grooves, chill out beats.

Drinking: It’s too warm for alcohol—maybe we’ll try passion fruit spiked with vodka once the sun goes down and Moroccan lanterns are lit–but in the meantime, sharp, citrusy-tasting iced lemongrass tea is the perfect drink for a steamy tropical afternoon.

Now, dream awake.

Recipe: Iced Lemon Grass Tea with Thai Basil

Makes 32 ounces


3 stalks fresh lemon grass
4 cups water
Honey to taste
Sprigs of Thai basil, mint or other herb for garnish


1. Strip off the coarse outer leaves of the lemongrass and discard. Cut off the tough base. Finely chop the lemongrass stalks into rings. Cut the stems above the stalks into 3 inch pieces. Reserve the leaves if there are any.
2. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Turn off the heat and add all the lemon grass pieces to the pot, including the leaves if you have them. Cover and steep for at least an hour, preferably two.
3. Strain the tea into a wide-mouthed glass jar. Add honey to taste. Cover and refrigerate until cold.
4. Serve iced with a sprig of Thai basil, mint or other fresh herb for garnish.

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