…so say the Chinese!
I have a wonderful post lined up for today. One of my most awesome readers, Rolly, over at (Fireside Rolly, Rolly Chabot Books, and at Weebly) contacted me a little while back and asked that since I loved tea so much, if I had tried chaga mushroom tea.
First, Rolly, thank you SO MUCH for this question! To all readers: if you have a question or want to see something that isn’t on the site, yet, please just send me an email and I’ll look forward to hearing from you.
Before I delve into the subject of chagas, here’s some full disclosure:
Mushrooms and I haven’t always gotten along – at least when it came to liking the taste. In fact, pretty much it’s in the last six months have I begun to change my taste preferences toward this food staple.
Growing up, I never cared for the taste, texture or aroma. I shied away from anything containing mushrooms: the thought of eating something squishy and fungus-y was less than appetizing to me.
But, as I’m making the transition from a vegetarian diet to a plant-based diet (as part of the LIFE Project), I have already found that if prepared well, mushrooms are really delicious.Their taste and texture is earthy and I’ve come to enjoy the terra-scented aroma they emit when I’m cooking them.
This is probably one big reason I’d never heard of chaga mushrooms. Ha!
But I’m infinitely grateful for Rolly’s suggestion that I try these.
They have a sweet, but not overpowering taste similar to vanilla when you make tea from them!
Rolly shared with me about his experiences finding chaga mushrooms, which then led to him sharing incredible stories of his adventures up in the Canadian wilderness and how chagas have impacted that.
I have great respect for Rolly and he carries such wisdom in his words and stories. After hearing so much about chaga from Rolly, I ordered some myself and wanted to share with others about this incredible mushroom with which to make tea.
Disclaimer: Always check with your health care provider before consuming herbal supplements.
Up in Canada, it grows on white birch trees and Rolly has his own stand of trees from which he can retrieve these mushrooms.
It grows in colder climates on the trunks of birch trees.
I’ve heard of it growing in the US (primarily in the northeast), Canada, Russia and other Far Eastern places.
Communities in China, and Russia, and the First Nations people in Canada as well as Native American Indians in the US have long since consumed this tea, but is only beginning to gain recognition in the wider world community for its almost miraculous-seeming healing powers.
In fact, the Chinese report that it’s one of the most beneficial foods on earth and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries!
On the tree itself, it looks like it’s parasitic – like a burl on the tree trunk – with a dark outer layer called the sclerotium.
In fact, that black mass of chaga is the mycelium (the vegetative part of the fungus that forms whitish filaments) that is feeding off of the birch tree.
Chaga and birch have a symbiotic relationship, however.
The tree benefits from the chaga because it grows where a the tree was weakened or injured (such as from a branch breaking) and “covers” the wound, preventing other organisms from infesting the tree.
When you harvest the chaga, the inside of it almost looks and feels like wood. It seems hard like wood, too.
You’d have no idea that this stuff is incredibly beneficial to consume or that it’s even a mushroom if you didn’t know what you were looking for!
But, harvesting requires that the mushroom be broken into chunks to dry, or you can make an extract from it by soaking the chunks in alcohol.
This helps to break down the chitin (hard protein cell walls).
Making the tea or the extract further breaks the chitin down, allowing for its medicinal use.
Some people break it down further by grinding it into a powder to add to recipes or smoothies.
Benefits of Chaga Mushrooms
Just what is it about chaga mushrooms that makes it special?
It is known for its incredible health benefits, of course.
In fact, Rolly shared with me about a friend who was diagnosed with cancer eight years ago who started drinking chaga tea, and has been cancer-free ever since.
As I began researching the benefits of chaga tea, I couldn’t believe the long list of benefits that this mushroom provides.
Chaga mushrooms help with the following:
- Regulate the human immune system (if it’s too active, it stabilizes it and if it’s not active enough, it stimlates it)
- Can relieve inflammation
- Purifiy the blood
- Adaptogenic, meaning it can help prevent and cure cancer
- Can be used as a pain reliever
- Regulate cell production in the body
- An incredible antioxidant from the dark melanin in the mushroom’s outer layer – higher than any superfood. It effectively stops oxidation in cells because of its high level of SOD, or superoxide dismutase.
- Help protect skin and hair from damage.
- Help improve LDL blood cholesterol levels
- They contain a wide array of phytonutrients, such as polysaccharides, sterols, and more
- They’re high in amino acids, which are the essential building blocks of protein
- Natural nergy booster
- May help with Lyme disease
Making Chaga Tea
There are several ways to make chaga.
By the Pot:
Rolly’s Method (using chunks):
- You want to be sure to find as pure and wild-harvested chaga chunks as you can find.
- Place several chunks in a pot and simmer (never boil) for a few hours.
- Save the chunks, as they can be reused up to 3 times.
- The tea will be dark brown to black and then you can drink as is – it will have a woodsy taste that is a little sweet.
- You can add sweetener if you’d like. You will feel a natural an pure boost of energy, but not like with caffeine.
More than a few sources on the web have chaga in powder form. In fact, in one source I’ve used for this post, the author likes to grind chaga into his own powder.
Over at his website, the author reports that he likes to take 5-6 tbsp of the ground powder and simmer for 4-6 hours, always keeping the temperature lower than 180 degrees.
Crock pot Method (using chunks):
Put several chunks into a crock pot and cover with water. Set on low and you can leave it for 24 hours or longer.
By the cup (using one chunk):
Still, you can make a cup at a time (this is what I have done so far).
Use water that is steaming, but not boiling and pour over one chaga tea-sized chunk.
Steep 15 minutes or longer. If you make a cup using this method, the tea tends to be lighter with a less pungent taste.
The chunks are great because afterward, you can reuse them. You can air-dry them out in the open or put into the fridge.
Though I’ve only made chaga tea by the cup, I can’t wait to try Rolly’s method. Since Rolly has so much experience with chaga, I really want to try simmering the chunks for awhile.
Ordering Your Own Chaga Mushrooms
The Annanda Chaga site I’ve listed below in the references section sells the chunks in Canada. I wanted to order from there as they really seem to know their stuff, but the shipping charges were high (not the fault of the site – country to country shipping can get expensive).
So, I ordered Maine Chaga Tea Chunks from “My Berry Organics” located in the US. I made sure they were 100% wild harvested, locally sourced whose company also follows sustainable harvesting practices. I found them on Amazon. Here are the links to their website and to their product on Amazon (not an endorsement; no commissions from these links):
My Berry Organics (which links back to Amazon for purchase)
Make it a Contemplative, Mindful Experience!
Drinking tea is a meditative act in itself. It forces you (in a good way) to slow down, take slow sips and reflect.
But, did you know that at any time, you can turn it into a meditative experience?
Brew your tea according to the methods above.
Then, take your cup and go find a quiet spot. Turn off the television, music or whatever noise that may be distracting.
Sit upright and slowly focus on your breathing. Take several deep breaths. Let your mind naturally slow down.
Take a sip of the warm tea. Note the earthy, sweet taste. Let it trickle down your throat.
Repeat this until you have finished your cup. As thoughts come to your mind, let them simmer and dissolve gently. Always gently.
Once your are finished, don’t forget to be grateful for the gift of the chaga tea and water that have nourished you.