How to Make Chaga Tea aka Mushroom Coffee
There are all kinds of trending products out there, such as MUDWTR, Ryze, Beyond Brew, and others that claim to be healthy replacements for coffee drinkers. Me personally, I'm not interested in giving up coffee, but I'm all for these alternative beverages as a supplement to my daily dose of java. In fact, there’s good evidence that a number of different fungi can be beneficial for health reasons, such as lion’s mane (hericium erinaceus) for promoting healthy brain and nerve function, turkey tail (trametes versicolor) to promote gut and immune system health, and cordyceps (several species) to boost energy, among others.
One of the stars of the show for most of these concoctions, of course, is chaga (inonotus obliquus). Research has shown that chaga has antioxidant properties that can reduce cancer cell viability, has anti-inflammatory properties, immune system boosting effects, can help curb hyperglycemia and boost insulin levels in diabetic patients, and can even help lower cholesterol. And I didn't even list everything. But probably one of the best parts about chaga versus some of the other mushrooms included in many of these mushroom coffee products, is that chaga tea is absolutely delicious. And while Lion's Mane, cordyceps, Reishi and other fungi are great for both food and/or health, they can be difficult to find or very expensive. Chaga is extremely abundant right here in Minnesota, requiring only a quick trip up north.
So my question is...why not just go harvest a bunch of chaga and make my own mushroom coffee beverage? If you'd like to learn more about how to identify and harvest chaga, check out my article on just that subject here. The purpose of this article is to learn how to use chaga, once harvested, to make a delicious beverage possessing the caramel and vanilla notes of bourbon, the roasty bitterness of coffee, and the health benefits noted above to boot.
Prepare the Chaga Mushroom
To start with, some folks find the black bits on the exterior of the mushroom to be more bitter, so they remove that first. I use a small knife and whittle off the large black exterior bits, though it may not be wholly necessary to do so. A good friend of mine has been drinking chaga for decades and she doesn't bother trimming the black parts. At minimum, though, I would at least thorough scrub the exterior with hot water and with a stiff brush--a potato brush would be perfect. This removes, dirt, debris and any potential contaminants that could be present in significant quantity.
The next step is to take the fist size (or sometimes much larger) chunks of mushroom and break them up into smaller pieces--about one inch cubed or smaller. Suggestions: cleaver and cutting board in kitchen, hammer and chisel on cutting board in garage, you could even put the chaga in a
clean pillow case and crush with heavy mallet (this is what my wife's uncle does). Be careful not to lose chaga if it flies off your cutting board once you get through it. Also be careful not to hurt yourself as a fair amount of force must be applied to cut each piece. Make sure no small kids are around!
However you do it, take these smaller bits and pieces and scatter them on a roasting pan and put into the oven on the lowest possible setting for about an hour and a half. Just enough to dry the chunks and kill anything else that may be on the exterior of the mushroom.
Once the pieces have roasted, let them cool to room temp and store in a dry, airtight container until you're ready for some evening tea or morning coffee. I use quart size mason jars, but plastic containers would work too. Personally, I store them in my pantry, but I reckon storage might be best in freezer so as to keep the flavor fresher (as is recommended for coffee).
Prepare the Chaga Beverage
This is the easy part:
1. At a weight ratio of 8:1 (water to mushroom), put the chaga and water into a pot. Turn the pot on high heat on stove top with lid on.
2. Boil until liquid is a dark amber or even the color of a dark roasted pot of coffee.
3. Turn stove off.
4. Pour chaga beverage into cup over strainer.
5. Separate chaga from liquid and store in container in the fridge. The chaga can be reused a half dozen times or more before it is depleted (of both flavor and beneficial compounds).
6. Enjoy black, or feel free to add milk and/or honey. I've done all three in different combinations or alone and they're all excellent. Hope you enjoy!
Note: If you want to emulate the mushroom drinks above, most of them also include cacao (cocoa powder), so you could do that too. Feel free to play with this a little bit and figure out what you like best.