Aubrac tea is a herbal infusion made with calamint, a plant used since Medieval times to treat hysterical and digestive disorders. It grows wild in the beech woods of Aubrac, from an altitude of 1,000 metres up, where the soil is volcanic and the climate cool and shady.
The aroma and taste is subtle, something close to thyme with floral and mint notes, and infused the amber tea is slightly bitter to taste. It is still used today as a remedy for stress and indigestion, but a group of small local producers is now working to develop other products.
Together, under the umbrella of ‘La Grange Au Thé’, they have opened a shop in Nasbinals (48) halfway between Saint-Flour and Millau, where they sell a growing range of ‘Grange Au Thé’ products.
The group was formed in 2011 to protect the wild plants from over-picking, says Vice-President Cécile Ducoulombier. “The association is open to anyone. We set it up quite simply by using word of mouth, local adverting and a meeting to explain the concept. Most of our producers only have a patch the size of an ordinary garden, and they all do everything completely by hand, but they follow very strict cultivation methods in order to guarantee top quality.”
Picking calamint to make herbal tea, which can be served either hot or iced, is traditional in Aubrac, but the ‘Grange Au Thé’ association has branched out into other areas developing an aperitif, meringues, sablés and a successful range of cosmetics.
“Natural cosmetic products are in vogue, and our body cream is very popular. It is 100% natural with no chemical additives and I’d say that after the tea itself, it’s our second-best seller.” They also make soap using Aubrac cows’ milk and calamint.
Everything is made and sold under the ‘Grange Au Thé’ brand in order to give the 20-odd very small producers a foothold in the market.
“Many of our customers are holiday-makers, who buy something as a souvenir and then at home, they realise how good our products are and buy more online, so we’re re-doing our website now to bring it up to date for this season.”