So it’s bloody cold out, but we’re getting there… March is just around the corner and soon we’ll all be in bathing suits complaining about the heat, right? But meantime, here’s a little something delicious to warm you from your head to your toes, from the inside out. It’s also easy to get dehydrated in the winter, as most of us tend to not think about drinking fluids when it’s cold. It’s important to keep sipping, and if you choose the warm, cozy stuff, then you’re winning all ’round.
I love chaga, especially in tea form. Chaga is a medicinal mushroom that is nothing like the mushrooms you probably know. It is hard – nearly as dense as wood – and has a delicious, robust flavour that goes well with the likes of chocolate, vanilla, or cinnamon. So when I say we’re making mushroom tea today, it’s not what it might sound like.
Chaga grows on trees, primarily birch, right here in Ontario, and becomes easier to find the farther north you go. Black on the outside, it looks like a big burnt wound on the tree; inside, it is a beautiful rusty orange colour. Chaga packs a powerhouse of antioxidants and is incredible for the immune system. Chaga has long been used to treat cancer and inflammatory conditions. And did I mention that it’s delicious? Let’s get making tea!
You will need some dried chunks of chaga, which you can buy loose in bags at many health food stores.
Spiced Chaga Tea
- About 1/4 cup chaga pieces (if your chaga is ground in to finer, smaller pieces, you may only need 2 tbsp)
- 1 organic orange
- approximately 30 cloves
- 2 or 3 sticks of cinnamon
- approximately 4 litres of water
Place your chaga in a large cooking pot and fill it with water. Bring to a boil.
While waiting for your water to boil, scrub that orange clean and stud it with cloves. That means puncturing the pointy end of a clove into the flesh of the orange, so that just the bulbous top of the clove sits on top, and covering the orange with these. I usually make about 3 rings all the way around each orange, resulting in 6 lines of cloves running from top to bottom around the orange, evenly spaced around its circumference. Each line is made of about 5 cloves. Use more or less depending on how much you like the taste of cloves.
Add your studded orange and cinnamon sticks to the boiling water.
Simmer with the lid on for 2 or more hours – the longer the better!
When ready to drink, strain the liquid into your mug (or jar to store it) and compost the orange and cinnamon sticks.
Save the chaga pieces: these can be used for another pot of tea! You can let them air dry completely and then store them in your cupboard, or put them in a container in your freezer (no need to dry them first). By freezing the chaga, you break the cell walls and can get a little more out of them next time. Chaga can be used over and over for tea this way until the water stays clear, at which point you’re ready to move on to the next handful of dried chaga chunks for your tea.
Enjoy it warm.
Store any extra tea in the fridge.
Optional: if you want it to be sweeter, consider adding a little apple juice to it.
Enjoy, and keep sipping, friends!