A Tale of Two Mints

When Chris came back from Madison, Wisconsin from an event he was managing with a copy of a recipe for a very spicy chicken soup from a restaurant specializing in dishes from Afghanistan, he was pretty insistent. “This soup is awesome. You have to make it.” So, I went shopping for the ingredients which included chicken, split yellow and green peas and …dried mint. I had never bought mint before. The spice display had a bottle (an expensive bottle) and I read the label. Mint. Not spearmint or peppermint. Just mint. I looked for spearmint and peppermint. Nada. So, was this “mint” spearmint, peppermint or a mixture? Anxiety, masked as confusion kicked in. Okay, think. The bottle says mint, and the recipe called for mint, so I have the right stuff. Chill…just buy it and determine what it is when you get home.

I knew my chewing gum and toothpaste well enough to know that spearmint and peppermint were different. Candy canes were peppermint flavoured and that would NOT be okay. I later learned that “not okay” quality was the heavy menthol in peppermint. I knew “mint” was used in making mint jelly which could be served with lamb (aha…a meat), mint juleps and the unusual yogourt mixture that accompanied this spicy soup. My money was on spearmint.

Yes, it was spearmint and the soup was actually more of a stew and it was spicy hot and the dollop of garlic and mint (yes, garlic and mint) infused yogourt in the middle of the bowl was amazing. You could swirl your spoon to get some spicy hot soup and some of the cooling yogourt. It was an amazing flavour contrast.

If you are marrying the mint with meat, spearmint is your choice.

Fast forward to our first week or two selling herbs and spices as Love Organic Vital Energy Inc. in 2017. A well-dressed woman about 10-15 years my senior popped in front of me and told me she had a condition that could be improved with mint and asked if we carried it. I answered we carried both spearmint and peppermint. Which one is recommended? She looked taken aback and said she didn’t know. I asked about the condition, which I had not heard of before and wrote it down.

The next weekend, the woman popped up again and I smiled and said, ” Peppermint”. She looked confused. I clarified, “I researched the condition you have and the type of mint you want is peppermint. It’s the menthol in it that helps.” She looked at me oddly. I know this odd look. I have experienced it a lot in my lifetime. It’s the “I can’t believe you invested the time to figure that out look.”

Anyway, the woman quickly realized we cared enough (and were curious enough) to invest some time in research and that our business is not about selling herbs and spices. It’s about helping our customers source and use organics.

So, what about a mint tea? You can use either mint and you can blend them. Remember, any herb can be infused in boiling water for 3-5 minutes to create a tea, or perhaps, more accurately, an herbal infusion. Hmmm….infusions versus decoctions: that’s another tale.