Refreshing Shiso Iced Tea

shiso iced tea

Shiso (Perilla frutescens) is a beautiful herb that self-seeds with abandon. It’s flavour is hard to pinpoint, something akin to mint meets a savoury herb like caraway with a hint of citrus. I’ve been growing it for years, but it’s aggressive nature always seemed to be curbed on the roof where conditions could be exceedingly hot mid-summer. It’s population of the rooftop’s pots was never more than I could handle or use within any given growing season.

I planted purple shiso seedlings in my current garden tentatively and with its invasive nature in mind. It remained controlled in the first year, and while its colony grew in the second, it stayed within the confines of the raised bed in which I had planted it. I was careful to remove seedheads at the end of the year, although truth be told, I probably should not have allowed any of it to get to the seed stage, period.

And so that brings us to year three. The shiso is colourful, gorgeous, thick, lush, and dominating. As much as I enjoy the flash of colour and texture it brings to some of my less exciting vegetable beds, there is simply too much of it. Far too much. I’ve had to thin the herd several times from the original bed as well as seedlings that continue to pop up inexplicably anywhere and everywhere. I’ve found at least one seedling in just about every pot. You’d be surprised by how it is flourishing in the tiniest nooks and crannies and even the mulch pathways!

Needless to say, I have a big crop of shiso this year and with abundance comes experimentation. How to use up such a peculiar flavoured herb? I’ve made shiso drinks in the past — in fact, there is a recipe for shiso slush in my book, Grow Great Grub, so I thought I’d begin there. It was painfully hot and humid here in Toronto last week and one way that I beat the heat was by making this unusual version of herbal iced tea.

purple shiso aka perilla

RECIPE: Shiso Iced Tea

Lemon juice (or citrus in general) is the key to using shiso as a beverage. It brightens up the flavour and magically transforms the tea from dull purple to a bright, almost nuclear pink.


  • 1 cup fresh shiso leaves
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup, or to taste

Bring 2 cups water to boil in a kettle or pot. Add the shiso to a tea pot, pour over the boiling water and let it steep for about 10-15 minutes.

Strain out the leaves, pressing with a spoon to extract all of the flavour. Stir in the lemon juice and agave syrup until dissolved.

Pour the mixture into a pitcher, add 1 cup of cold water, and place in the fridge to chill.

Add ice cubes just before serving.

Make about 3 cups.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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8 thoughts on “Refreshing Shiso Iced Tea

  1. My Perilla lives in a circle bed surrounded by a large flagstone patio. Miles of cracks between each piece of flagstone have become rivers of purple seedlings. I deadhead just after bloom finishes to try to forestall this annual flood, but seedlings keep coming. Birds love the oily seeds when I have left them on in the past. Other plants in this isolated circle bed are also self-sowers: Hibiscus trionum, Calliopsis, Cabbage Poppy, Belamcanda, Deptford Pinks, Red Lobelia. The rich color of the Perilla foliage looks great against these other plants. I knew Perilla was used for wrapping Sushi, but had not thought to use it as a tea. You are full of intriguing ideas.

  2. First year growing it….. mine hasn’t flowered yet here in Cambridge Ont. It seems to be growing nicely though. Has it flowered yet for anyone else?

    • Forgot to mention mine is also really frilly, the leaves are not smooth like in your picture. Maybe there are different types of purple shiso. I bought the seeds from an ebay seller in China.

    • Mine usually flowers later in the summer. The plants shown in my photo (above) are flat-leaved, but there are some frilly in the mix as well. I prefer the frilly but the flat-leaved seems to be more dominant.

  3. This sounds delicious. Could this be the name of the new plant that was gifted to my mom recently? It looks very much like this. If we discover that we’ve stumbled on this garden delight. I’ll be passing on this great recipe to her for sure. Thank you for sharing :)

  4. In Korea, they make kimchi out of perilla leaves. I think they use a specific Korean variety, but you can try to make it with the purple one, I’m sure. This would be a good way to utilize a bunch of shiso.

    My shiso also reseeded like crazy! And I’m talking about growing in the cracks between stones in my alley! Too bad I hate this variety…
    Another super invasive plant for me this year is perennial wild arugula. I think I saw it growing in the gutters on the roof next to morning glory :)

    • Ha! My wild arugula is doing the same, but we use it all so are grateful for it regardless of where it decides to come up.

      Thanks so much for sharing the kimchee recipe with us!

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