Teaching Idea: Black Tea Surrogate – exercise in self sufficiency

One of the aspects in wilderness pedagogics is self-sufficiency, the ability to make do with whatever your surrounding environment can provide.

Gathering and dispensing of various herbs for tea can go a long way to give you steaming cups of delicious herbal infusions, but some of us prefer some Assam or Darjeeling once in a while… Very little effort can help you transform a tasty herbal to something quite similar to black tea. Fermentation is the key!

Look out for Smallflower hairy willowherb (Epilobium parviflorum) or Rosebay willowherb (Epilobium angustifolium) and gather young leaves. There are no poisonous lookalikes in Europe, so this is a safe choice even for beginners.

For other purposes (medicinal or food) the whole plant can be used, but for substitute tea it is best to stick to leaves. Shred and crush the leaves a little to allow the sap to leak out. Keep the leaves for about 5 days in a closed plastic bag or glass jar in the sun to ferment and afterwards dry them in a shady place. Store dry or bring some water to a boil and enjoy your first cuppa! CT

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