Chaga Tea for Taste?
You could be forgiven for thinking that Chaga Mushroom would taste like any other mushroom you might pick up from the supermarket. In fact, Chaga has a quite unique taste, a little earthy, a hint of bitterness. The taste may not be for everyone, but you can make Chaga Mushroom tea in ways where the flavor is less potent if it is not to your liking.
Of course, there is more to the taste of Chaga Mushroom in any form than the flavor of the mushroom itself. How it was harvested and prepared can affect the flavor of this unique fungus as well.
How Chaga Mushroom is Harvested
The process of harvesting Chaga Mushroom is usually the same regardless of who is doing it and involves chiseling or hacking some of a Chaga Mushroom conk away, leaving at least a third of the mushroom in place so that it can grow back. Where the difference in terms of flavor comes in is the time of year that the harvesting takes place.
The best time to harvest Chaga is during times of years where there have been at least three weeks-worth of consecutive nights where the temperature has dropped to around twenty degrees Fahrenheit. For many places where Chaga Mushroom grows, this will be the fall months around Autumn.
The reason for this is that the Birch trees on which the Chaga Mushrooms grow start to go dormant at this time in preparation for winter. In response to this, the Chaga Mushroom stores more nutrients than usual, much like a squirrel stashing nuts away for the winter. Harvesting Chaga Mushroom during this period means you will get a more nutrient-rich haul, which will, of course, affect the flavor.
Processing and Preparation of Chaga Mushroom
The next step after harvesting is to process the Chaga. A natural Chaga Mushroom conk growing on a tree is almost as hard as the tree itself, so naturally, you’re not going to want to try and eat that!
The first step is cleaning. It is good to source your food in nature, both from the flavor, health, and sustainability standpoints, but that doesn’t mean you should be eating handfuls of dirt. Chaga Mushroom may not grow on the ground like more conventional mushrooms, but it is still exposed to the elements from its perch on the side of Birch tree trunks. Giving your Chaga Mushroom a thorough cleaning before moving to the next stage should ensure you are not getting any unwanted extra flavoring in your tea.
On the subject of added flavor, this will most likely come in the form of unwanted microbes and bits of tree bark finding their way into your tea. The cleaning should take care of the microbes, but you will likely need to cut away any bits of bark that came away with the Chaga mushroom. If your Chaga has a “dirt” taste to it or is particularly strong, it is probably because of this.
The next step is to grind the Chaga into a powder. There’s not much more to this than you might think. It helps to have the proper tools—such as a mortar and pestle, but you can make do with any flat surface and something blunt like a rolling pin end if you are taking on the task yourself.
Another significant factor in the taste of your Chaga Mushroom tea is the freshness of the Chaga being used. As with any other natural food, the fresher, the better. This presents a bit of a problem when coupled with our above advice about harvesting Chaga at specific times of the years in order to get the best flavor and nutritional value. Unfortunately, there is an unavoidable element of seasonal consumption to Chaga—for most of the year, you will either be using Chaga that isn’t fresh or Chaga that wasn’t harvested at the best time, meaning you won’t always be getting the best possible sample of Chaga goodness. That being said, Chaga harvested during the summer, or Chaga that has been properly stored for a few months is still packed with nutrients.
If you choose to have Chaga harvested during those golden fall months and store it through the year, it is important to note that Chaga is particularly absorbant to external smells and flavors. Leaving your Chaga exposed in a kitchen environment will likely make a significant difference to the flavor of any tea you eventually make from it. Coffee is a big culprit for affecting the flavor of Chaga because of its strong aroma and the frequency it is made in a typical kitchen.
If you are going to store your Chaga, it is best to store it in small-ish chunks in an airtight container. That being said, if you have a place where it can be stored without subjecting it to a variety of unwanted aromas, storing it in a cloth bag will allow it to “breathe.” And, regardless of whether you are storing your Chaga as one big lump, in chunks, or as powder, you should keep it in a dry, dark place.
Making Chaga Mushroom Tea
The process of making tea from your properly prepared Chaga Mushroom powder is as simple as boiling water and straining it afterward. You can pour the water in with your Chaga Mushroom powder and strain it out afterward, or you could fashion a makeshift teabag from something like cheesecloth and let it steep in the hot water.
You can also use chunks, of course, but the more of the Chaga’s internal structure that is exposed to the water, the more of the Chaga’s nutrients and flavor you will unlock. In short, you can use chunks, but it’s not a very efficient use of your Chaga.
The taste of Chaga Mushroom tea is far from a universally loved flavor. It’s earthy, slightly bitter flavor certainly does not appeal to everyone. Fortunately, there are other ways to consume Chaga, including as a concentrated tincture. If you are interested in the purported health benefits of Chaga Mushroom, you don’t need to miss out because of the taste.