If you’ve researched antioxidants, superfoods, or natural remedies, you’ve probably heard of chaga. This mysterious mushroom grows on birch trees in many places around the world. Chaga contains incredible qualities of melanin, antioxidants, and oxalate, giving it a unique makeup that’s sought after by many health enthusiasts.
Chaga tea isn’t intuitive to make. Natural chaga takes the form of a black and lumpy mass. If it’s not cut immediately after being harvested, chaga dries and becomes hard and difficult to work with.
So how do you make chaga tea? Can you make chaga tea out of chunks? How do you deal with a big lump of dry chaga? Here are all of the answers to these questions, starting with how to make chaga tea.
How To Make Chaga Tea
To make chaga tea, infuse chaga in simmering water until your tea reaches the desired color and taste. Powdered chaga in an infuser should be steeped for about 10 minutes, while chunks on the stove should be steeped for 15 minutes to several hours.
The surface area of your chaga is the critical variable for this process. Smaller chunks should yield more flavor faster than big chunks. Don’t feel pressured to grind your chaga, though – you get a slightly different flavor with longer steeped big chunks, which means many chaga enthusiasts prefer it over ground chaga.
How To Make Chaga Tea: Step By Step
Making chaga tea will vary based on your preferences and what form the chaga takes. If you’ve got chaga that’s already ground into a fine powder, like coffee, here’s a simple way to use it to make tea.
Powdered Chaga Tea: Step By Step Instructions
1. Bring 1-2 cups of water to a boil
2. Place 2-3 tsp of dried chaga in a tea infuser or ball, or add it directly to the water if you plan to strain it out later with a coffee filter
3. Add the chaga to the boiling water
4. Let the chaga steep for 10 -15 minutes, or to desired strength
5. Remove the infuser, or. if you don’t have one. pour the water through a filter to remove the chaga particles
6. Add honey, sugar, maple syrup, or other flavorings as desired
Be sure to adjust the amount of chaga you use and your steeping time based on your preferences.
Chaga Tea From Chunks: Step By Step Instructions
1. Put a large amount of water in a pot and bring it to a boil
2. Reduce the heat and bring the water to a simmer. Add a generous amount of chunks of chaga. Because of the reduced surface area, you’ll want to use a fair bit.
3. Let the chaga steep for at least 15 minutes. Steep time will vary based on how large your chunks are. how much chaga you’re using, and how strong you want your tea to be. For best results, use a spoon to remove a bit of liquid and taste it every 15-30 minutes until you’re happy with your tea.
4. Let your tea cool. Use a slotted spoon or colander to remove large chunks, or simply pour carefully into another container. If you feel like there’s too much debris in your tea. pour through a coffee filter.
5. Add honey, sugar, or maple syrup to sweeten your tea.
Some people like to brew extra-strong chaga tea with this method and then add a bit of water later. This is a great way to save chaga tea for future consumption or to brew it for multiple people with varying tastes.
Where Do I Get Chaga?
Chaga tea is most popular in regions where it can be harvested locally. You can buy it online from several specialty retailers, both in prepared products and as a raw mushroom.
Online retailers often sell special blends of chaga with herbs, spices, and other plants that make wonderful infusions and have a cornucopia of health benefits in addition to those found in straight chaga tea.
If you’re new to chaga tea, consider picking up a small amount of straight chaga and a small amount of one of these mixed infusions. This will give you a bit more room to adapt your palette to the bitter earthiness of chaga tea.
Can I Harvest Chaga Myself?
Eating wild mushrooms is dangerous. Even the most experienced mushroom experts will make mistakes occasionally, causing several people to die each year. Chaga is somewhat distinctive, but there are a handful of similar fungal growths that are not safe to eat.
Notably, fool’s chaga looks almost identical to real chaga and grows on many of the same species of tree that chaga can be found on. Experts suggest only harvesting chaga that’s found on white birch to help reduce the chances of misidentifying this mushroom.
Chaga is a parasitic fungus that eventually causes the host tree to die. When this happens, the chaga almost immediately stops being safe to consume.
If you do choose to harvest your own chaga, make sure that you’re only harvesting chaga found on living healthy trees.
Finally, consider the safety of the activities involved in harvesting chaga. Chaga is often found in rural areas. Be sure to only harvest where you have permission to harvest, make sure that you take appropriate precautions about local hunters and other hazards, and exercise appropriate caution about local weather and wildlife.
Chaga often grows fairly high up a tree and takes a fair bit of force with a bladed tool to dislodge, so be careful as you climb up to retrieve it. Swinging your axe too hard and losing your balance can absolutely happen, and it will ruin your day.
Overall, this means that if you should definitely err on the side of caution and purchase your chaga rather than harvesting it. If you live in an area where white birch is plentiful, you have access to land where it’s safe to harvest mushrooms, and you’re confident that you know what wild chaga looks, smells, and feels like, you can harvest it yourself.
Again, however, mushroom poisoning isn’t a joke, so do not do this if there are any doubts.
How To Work With Dry Chaga
Chaga isn’t the moistest or supple fungus, but it dries out to an almost rock-hard consistency within a few hours of being harvested. This makes it difficult to separate into chunks or grind into powder, especially if you’ve got a big block.
The easiest way to work with dry chaga is to simply place it in a clean bucket and hack at it with your favorite hacking tool. This might be a clean axe, a thick knife, or even a clean hammer. The bucket will help keep the shrapnel and dust contained while you go to work on the chaga chunk.
Chaga is definitely hard, but it’s not going to withstand a bit of determination applied via basic hand tools.
Alternately, if hacking it to bits doesn’t do it for you, you can simply place dry chaga on a cutting board and slowly shave off bits with a thick knife. This will generate a lot of chaga dust, which is great if your goal is a fine powder for use in a tea infuser.
Finally, if you’ve got your chaga in small chunks, you can throw it in your coffee grinder. This is a great way to reduce the steep time of your chaga tea. Be sure to properly clean your coffee grinder before adding your chaga or you’ll wind up with quite a bit of coffee taste in your chaga tea.
Does Boiling Chaga Ruin It?
Health experts have split opinions on the preparation of chaga tea. One school of thought, backed up by experts like Greg Marley, suggests that many of the beneficial compounds in chaga aren’t released at infusion temperatures below boiling.
Compounds like polysaccharides can’t be found at all in tea that’s steeped at lower temperatures rendering several of the health benefits of chaga useless. By contrast, a different school of thought suggests the exact opposite.
Cass Ingram claims that many other components of the chaga mushroom are medicinal, including catalase and peroxidase. These compounds are damaged by temperatures above 180 F, meaning that ideal extraction involves a gentle simmer, not a boil.
Followers of this line of thinking often steep their chaga for hours or even days, creating a strong syrup that they can add to other drinks or enjoy straight.
We know that chaga is full of potentially healthy compounds and have performed numerous animal studies that have reinforced the health benefits of the mushroom, but human trials have not been conducted.
It’s unclear whether the benefits of the polysaccharides and other chemicals that don’t come out to play until the water is boiling outweigh the losses of destroying catalase, peroxidase, and other heat-sensitive compounds.
You’ll still get plenty of value out of either preparation method, so use the one that preserves the compounds you’re attempting to ingest or simply the one that’s easier for you.
As far as antioxidants go, you can absolutely remove antioxidants by boiling food, since the antioxidants flee into the water you’re using to boil your food. Since you drink the water not the chaga, this isn’t a concern.
What Does Chaga Tea Taste Like
Chaga tea has a strong, earthy flavor with some hints of vanilla. That isn’t to say that it tastes like vanilla, but rather that it’s faintly reminiscent of the vanilla bean once you get past the initial earthiness. Chaga tea is fairly bitter and does not taste like other mushrooms, meaning your first couple of sips might surprise you.
Like many other complex, earthy tastes, chaga tea is a bit of an acquired taste for some people. If you don’t like it at first, try another cup later. Many people also add sugar, syrup, herbs, or other flavorings to their chaga. Its health benefits don’t change when you add a bit of honey and turmeric, it just tastes different.
How Do You Make Chaga Tea Taste Better
If you’re not a fan of the taste of your chaga tea, start by adding a bit of sugar, maple syrup, or honey. Sweetness is a great distractor that helps bring out the earthy flavors of chaga tea while making it easier to drink.
Try all three options: maple syrup and honey add flavors that complement the taste of chaga tea very well. Don’t be afraid to add a lot of sugar or syrup, either. You’re ultimately drinking this for you, not for anyone else.
Other factors to consider include your steep time and how concentrated your chaga tea is, if you’re simmering big chaga chunks overnight to make your tea, you’ll get a dark, strong brew. If you’re not used to chaga tea, consider adding water or even club soda or ginger ale. This will help mellow out the flavors and give your mouth some space.
By contrast, if your tea tastes like someone dipped a brown crayon in lukewarm water, you’ll want to increase the amount of chaga you use and your steep time. Try twice as much chaga steeped for twice as long and taste as you steep. When you’re done, try adding a bit of sugar.
Sweetness can help bring out flavors in herbal infusions and can really change the game where chaga is concerned.
Finally, don’t limit your additions to simply sugar and water. Milk in chaga tea is odd, but not unheard of, and many people add other herbs like turmeric, ginger, and honeybush. You could even add a bit of chaga tea concentrate to a drink like chai tea for an interesting hybrid infusion.
What Are The Health Benefits of Chaga Tea?
Chaga is an incredible source of both melanin and antioxidants. It’s thought to help balance your nervous and immune systems, help your Gl tract health, and reduce the effects of age.
The antioxidants make it a powerful anti-inflammatory as well, meaning it should help pretty much every aspect of your health. There have even been reported links between chaga tea and increased brain function.
The amount of melanin and antioxidants in chaga cannot be overstated. Chaga tea is one of the most powerful natural antioxidants around beating out things like turmeric and acai berry pulp pound-for-pound.
Animal studies have shown that chaga has powerful medicinal properties, but studies on humans simply haven’t been conducted yet. This means that there’s some doubt on the exact health benefits of chaga tea for humans.
That said, there’s a lot of research that’s been done on other adaptogenic plants and mushrooms and the individual compounds that chaga contains, meaning that we can be fairly confident in its healthy properties.
Can I Overdose On Chaga Tea?
Chaga tea should not be consumed in copious amounts or very frequently. A medium cup once or twice a week is almost certainly fine, but drinking several gallons a day is almost certainly not.
The culprit for this is a compound called oxalate that’s quite abundant in chaga tea. Ingesting too much oxalate can cause kidney stones or worsen an existing case.
Oxalate is found in many other foods, including beans, chocolate, coffee, dark leafy greens, soda, regular black tea, and tofu. These are all common foods that people eat all the time. In most people, eating reasonable amounts of oxalate isn’t a major concern.
If you want to drink lots of chaga tea frequently, however, use caution. Be sure to drink plenty of water to help your system flush out the excess oxalate and consult a doctor if you or your family have a history of kidney stones.
Additionally, chaga tea is full of compounds that affect your health. In healthy people, these compounds are beneficial. In people who are on blood thinners or people with certain medical conditions, however, chaga tea can interact with your body in unwanted or unexpected ways.
A quick rule of thumb is to consider the side effects of aspirin. If there’s anything that would cause you to be hesitant to take an aspirin pill you should definitely consult a doctor before you drink lots of chaga tea. Definitely avoid chaga if you’re on blood thinners or you’re taking pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories already.
Overall, it’s unlikely that drinking too much chaga will be a serious concern. As with other foods, moderation is key. Again, consult a doctor if you have a history of kidney stones, you’re on blood thinners. or you’re taking pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory drugs.
Chaga Tea: The Superfood Of The Future?
As more science is done on the health benefits of chaga and it is becoming more popular. Its unique, earthy flavor pairs well with herbs, syrup, and root vegetables.
The antioxidant-rich fungus is chosen due to its ability to combat inflammation, aging, and even high blood pressure. Brewing a cup of chaga tea might take several minutes, but it’s absolutely worth it.
Have any tips on things to add to chaga tea or questions about it? Leave a comment below!