Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sweet Birch Tea (Betula lenta)

Our little one, who's real name is Eva, loves to make sweet birch tea (Betula lenta). It is a fantastic, real life project that keeps her busy when I am cooking, giving her a way to contribute to our meals.

As far as winter edibles go, this is one of our favorites. Warm, delicious, and so satisfying on a cold winter evening around the camp fire or over the reading of a good book.

Our woods have a plentiful supply of black birch trees (yellow birch also makes a similar brew), easy to correctly identify because of its clear wintergreen smell when its twigs are scratched. You can break up small twigs, fill a jar, cover with almost boiling water and wait until the tea reaches your desired flavor. Eva likes to take the twigs and shave them with a butter knife. She finds this activity deeply satisfying; she will shave twigs for upwards of 40 minutes!

So if you have little ones (or if you do not) introduce them to sweet birch tea--a wild food that is sure to please.


  1. Do you pour the contents through a seive/cloth to get rid of the bark remnants, and do you reheat to bring it back up to desirable sipping temp?

    I've been considering trying this myself as I come across the wintergreen smelling yellow birch in my work.

  2. Great question. We steep our tea in a half-gallon mason jar with the lid on. We fill the jar loosely with twigs. Next we heat water to near boiling, but we don't bring it to a complete boil. Then we pour the water into the jar and seal it. It steeps for 30-45 minutes. I know that seems like a long time, but if you don't steep it long enough the tea is weak. Then we remove the lid and screw on a jelly bag or old T-shirt that we use like a sieve. Usually its at just the right temperature for me. I never reheat it. In fact, my favorite way to drink this is as an iced tea.