Oh joy, another DIY project. As if assembling your IKEA furniture wasn’t challenging enough. Get ready, because today we’re steering away from the comforts of your supermarket tea aisle and venturing into the interesting world of herbal teas with this amazing fireweed tea recipe.
Now, before your heart starts racing with anticipation, let me clarify: fireweed isn’t a exotic plant from a fantasy novel that spontaneously combusts. It’s Chamerion angustifolium – a tall, elegant plant that blooms lovely purple flowers. Now without me wasting anymore of your extremely valuable time, here is how you make fireweed tea:
Table of Contents
- 40 grams of fresh fireweed leaves per cup of tea
1. Procuring the Fireweed
Gathering the Fireweed
This is very important, make sure you are well informed on how to identify the plant before you go foraging.
Fireweed, also known as Ivan Chai, is a hardy and beautiful plant that is known to be a pioneering species, making its home in areas ravaged by forest fires. In the UK it became known as bombweed due to it’s sudden appearance in recently bombed areas during the Blitz of World War 2, fascinating isn’t it? If you’re located in the Northern Hemisphere, chances are you’ve seen these plants with their vibrant magenta flowers beautifying the sides of roads, hiking trails, or even your backyard.
The best time to hunt for fireweed is mid-summer when the plant is in full bloom, and the leaves are at their most vibrant.
Be sure to equip yourself with a field guide or use a plant identification app to ensure that you’re picking the correct plant. While fireweed is generally safe and non-toxic, it does have a few doppelgängers that are far less friendly. If in doubt, leave it alone and order from an online vendor instead.
Also, remember the golden rule of foraging: respect nature and only take what you need.
Disclaimer: Do not consume tea made from wild fireweed.
Buying from a vendor
Ah, the joys of e-commerce. Don’t feel like embarking on a wild expedition to forage fireweed leaves, no problem! Kick back in your chair, click on your favorite overpriced exotic leaf vendor, and add fireweed leaves to your cart. As easy as buying another useless gadget you’ll use precisely once.
2. Cleaning the Leaves
Once you’ve successfully navigated the wilds (or the perilous realm of online shopping) and your leaves are ready, it’s time to wash them. Remember, cleanliness is next to godliness, and we’re dealing with heavenly tea here.
This step is where the magic happens. And by magic, I mean biological degradation. Oh, don’t look so shocked. You knew what you were signing up for.
Start by massaging the leaves until they become darker and start releasing their juices. Yes, “massaging.” Isn’t it great how your weekend spa day has been replaced with kneading leaves?
Once you’ve exhausted your leaves and your enthusiasm, shove them into a ceramic or glass jar. Keep them under their own juice and seal the jar. Store it in a warm, dark place where it can be forgotten, much like your failed attempts at homemade sourdough during the lockdown.
What comes next is a waiting game. A tedious 48-hour wait. In this time, the enzymes in the leaves will oxidize, changing the flavor of your soon-to-be tea. It’s a transformational journey, much like the one you’re undoubtedly going through as you question why you ever embarked on this tea-making mission.
4. Drying the Leaves
Once your fermentation experiment has reached its climax, it’s time to dry the leaves. Spread the leaves thinly on a baking sheet, much like your patience at this point. Set your oven to its lowest temperature. The objective here is to dry the leaves, not incinerate them.
Give it a few hours. You might want to use this time to contemplate why you didn’t simply buy a pack of ready-made fireweed tea.
5. Brewing the Tea
After many trials and even more errors, you’ve arrived at the final step. Brew your hard-earned tea by steeping the dried leaves in hot water for 5-10 minutes. As you sip this labour-intensive brew, enjoy the unique flavors, a subtle reminder of the wilderness and your free time you once had.
And there you have it, folks! You’ve navigated the vast wilderness of e-commerce, plunged into the mysterious world of leaf fermentation, and braved the hot, dry climate of oven drying, all to produce a cup of tea that you’ll probably drink once and then return to your store-bought blends. But remember, it’s not about the tea; it’s about the journey, the adventure, and the borderline ridiculous effort you’ve put into something you could have bought for a few dollars at the store. So, go ahead and enjoy your mug of ivan chai. After all, you’ve earned it.