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Chaga is delicious and offers many health benefits. Here’s how to make chaga tea.
Chaga Mushroom vs Chaga Fungus
Chaga is sometimes mistaken for a mushroom and is often called “chaga mushroom”.
In fact, chaga is a fungus — in the family Hymenochaetaceae — called Inonotus obliquus.
Warning! I am not a professional forager or wild food expert. I forage only for myself. Please do your own research before touching or eating any plants. Never consume anything in nature that you personally cannot 100% positively identify.
Chaga conks are most often found on birch trees. So the first step is to learn how to identify birch trees.
You must learn to differentiate chaga from fool’s chaga.
Chaga has a rough and hard exterior that is said to resemble burnt wood or a charcoal cinder; the black sterile parasitic conks are quite distinctive in the field. The exterior will break off in chunks, sometimes simply using finger pulls, sometimes with the aid of a small knife.
Chaga’s interior is softer, woody, almost cork-like — and orange.
Some friends and I found the chaga conk shown below on North Dome in The Catskills. It was quite large, possibly weighing a few pounds, and was probably worth several hundred dollars…
Do not harvest chaga from any other kind of tree. The compounds in chaga can be toxic and you want chaga only from birch trees.
Harvest only a small amount of chaga. You barely need any to make several strong brews. Leave the majority of the conk intact.
Only birch-tree-chaga contains betulinic acid which has which has antiretroviral, antimalarial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.
The following posts will help you learn to identify chaga mushroom in the field:
- How to Identify Chaga Mushroom in Nature
- Chaga Mushroom Identification. What Does Chaga Look Like?
- Chaga Mushroom Identification and the Benefits of Chaga Mushroom Powder
Best Anti-Tick Treatment
Making Chaga Tea
Chaga has been used for thousands of years in teas and healing remedies, and as a fire starter; a caveman preserved in ice, and believed to have lived around 3400 BCE, was found with some chaga in his pouch.
After washing and cleaning your chaga, there are two main ways to make tea with chaga mushroom.
The first is to break up a very small handful of chaga into even smaller chunks like this…
…and simply simmer (not boil) those pieces in water for a long time, until the water turns the shade of tea you prefer. The chunks can be used this way several times.
I chose the grinding method shown below, and used the chaga granules only once. Later, I found out I probably could have used the granules twice, and maybe even a third time. Oh well, live and learn.
How much chaga per cup?
Whichever method you use, use about this much for two strong cups of chaga tea…
But experiment to see what works for you. Start with smaller amounts to make sure you don’t have an adverse reaction.
Place in a mortar…
Grind with pestle…
Don’t grind into a fine dust. Instead, leave in pieces like this…
For my first cup of chaga, I used about half the above amount.
Place in a small metal strainer like this one…
Pour hot water (6-8oz) and allow to steep for a few minutes. Then remove the strainer and enjoy…
What does chaga tea taste like?
Not like mushrooms, that’s for sure! Chaga tea has a mild earthy taste. It’s definitely stronger than the pine needle teas I’ve made from hemlock needles and white pine needles.
In terms of strength, it’s more akin to a black breakfast tea, albeit with a very different flavor profile. I really liked it. I didn’t find it overly bitter. I didn’t add sweetener but still found it very palatable.
Chaga can be combined with herbs and spices like Chai, cinnamon, and turmeric, and it pairs well with honey. It can also be mixed into smoothies.
Considering the health benefits, I will definitely be on the lookout for more chaga fungus on birch trees.
Browse more simple foraging recipes.
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