As the season shifts from Summer to Autumn, it's time to start supporting my immune system. One way I do this is to wake up to a steamy cup of Chaga Chai tea.
Chaga is a mushroom that grows in Canada, Siberia and the northern U.S. It grows on a variety of trees, but is mainly found on white and yellow birch. It is unique among the medicinal mushrooms because when we consume chaga, we are ingesting the mycelium, not its fruiting body. Usually when we eat mushrooms, we are eating a fruiting body (or spore). The mycelium is most often found under the ground, consisting of many branches and it is here that the fungus absorbs nutrients. With chaga, the fruiting body is found within the trunk of the tree and it's the mycelium that is exposed. This mycelium is highly medicinal- it supports the immune system, protects DNA from damage, contains melanin to prevent premature aging, contains vitamins and minerals, and it has one of the highest antioxidant properties found in any food. Chaga that is collected from birch trees will also contain betulin, or betulinic acid, which new research is finding to be toxic to cancer cells.
I incorporate Chaga into my diet in a number of ways. I powder it and add it to my smoothies, I make a tincture out of it using a double extraction method of water and alcohol (more to come on this in a future post), and I brew tea with it. In order to extract the beneficial properties from chaga, decoct in hot water for at least 20 minutes. A decoction is done by simmering the grated or ground chaga in water on the stove. Chaga has a mild, almost caramel-like taste. It is also quite strong, so you can re-use it by straining and doing a second, even third, decoction with the same grounds. You can enjoy it warm or allow it to cool and add lemon for a nice refreshing taste, but by far my favourite way to enjoy it is to make Chaga Chai!
Chaga Chai Tea
4 tsp powdered chaga (use a coffee grinder or high-powered blender)
1 tsp powdered dandelion root
1 tsp powdered burdock root
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1/2 tsp ground star anise
pinch of black pepper
- Powder chaga and roots in a coffee grinder or blender. Place in a glass jar and add spices and stir well. Top with a llid and store in a cool, dry place.
- To brew a cup, boil 1 1/2 cups of water in a small pot. Add roughly 1/2-1 tsp of your Chaga Chai blend and simmer on low for 15 minutes, then add 1 cup of milk (I like unsweetened almond milk).
- Simmer for a for roughly 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and add sweetener, Andrew likes raw honey, I've been using a pinch of stevia. ENJOY!