Chaga tea

Introduction to Chaga tea

  • Supports your immune system
  • Balances your metabolism
  • Re-vitalizes, enhances your concentration
  • High in anti-oxidants, anti-aging power

Chaga tea does not have the potency of a highly concentrated extract. But sometimes you don’t need that amount of power. Or maybe you just prefer to drink a healthy herbal tea during the day instead of popping capsules. Chaga tea is an excellent prophylactic.

In most countries, tea is made by steeping tea leaves in hot water until the brew reaches the desired strength. However, in Russia, a lot of tea leaves are steeped in little water to create a powerful, highly concentrated brew called zavarka (заварка), which often will be simmering all day. This brew is then diluted with hot water to taste when it is served.

The traditional samovar was designed to do just this: on the top there was a tea pot with brewing tea (zavarka), and inside was hot water, with a little tap to dilute your cup of zavarka to the desired strength. See the picture, below.

Description of a traditional samovar
This is an excellent way to prepare a really potent Chaga tea – in fact, you are performing a hot-water extraction this way, setting the active components free (beta-glucans, phenols) and thus increasing the therapeutic potency.

Chaga tea, when put in a filter bag, can be used a few times before losing its flavor if you choose the short (15 – 30 min. of steeping) method.

Russians also enjoy mixing different types of tea – for example, black tea with herbal tea. You can do the same with Chaga tea. You can also add small amounts of cinnamon, kardamom or nutmeg to vary the taste – feel free to experiment! Some mix it with instant-coffee (ratio 1:1) or drip-coffee. There are also people that put Chaga in an espresso-machine!

For sweeteners, Russians use sugar, honey, or even jam. Instead of dissolving sugar into the tea, some Russian tea drinkers prefer to hold a sugar cube in their mouths as they drink – a recipe for tooth decay, but an interesting idea nonetheless.

More background on Chaga and other medicinal mushrooms can be found, free for download, here.


3 thoughts on “Chaga tea

  1. Thanks for this, as well as for the full-facts article! Very interesting. I wonder: when you make tea/hot water extraction of chaga, is it important that the water does not boil? Some sites clames that heating above 80 c “destroys enzymes”, is that so?

    • Thanks Dag,

      Most websites have no clue what they’re talking about, they just copy/paste something from another website (which also copy/pasted their info from somewhere) because ‘it sounds convincing’ to them and matches their expectations. Like: ‘boiling is bad’. Unless these statements are verifiable and well-referenced you can take them with a grain of salt. Exaggeration is more or less the standard on the internet.

      Sometimes boiling is bad, sometimes it isn’t, that’s what logic tells us. Boiling also has a function. In the case of Chaga tea boiling will break the water-soluble bioactives free from the chitinous cell-walls in which they lie embedded. The lower the temperature, the less the extracting effect, which you maybe can compensate by significantly extending the time – at least several hours.

      Which enzymes are supposed to be destroyed by the boiling is never mentioned on these websites, nor why they’re being destroyed. As a matter of fact, enzymes are not the main bioactive components in Chaga, but beta-glucans, betulinic acid and polyphenols are.

      Making Chaga tea is already a compromise, because only a small percentage of the water-solubles are being ‘extracted’ that way, leaving out e.g. betulinic acid, sterols and several other non-soluble components. The synergy that is present in a ‘full-spectrum’ extract will also be missing because of that. Personally, I would be more concerned about having to accept this compromise than whether or not some unknown enzymes might be destroyed because of boiling.

      If you are considering making Chaga tea to help you deal with some health condition, we want to advise you to take a full-spectrum, professionally extracted supplement instead. You will miss the fun of making your own Chaga tea, but at least you know what you get (check the supplement facts label for the details about the bioactives) and what you can expect from it, therapeutically speaking.

      The traditional ‘zavarka’ method would for sure ‘destroy enzymes’ because it involves non-stop simmering at the boiling point. An old study* concluded that only prolonged heating/decocting (the traditional method) gives the extract/Chaga tea anti-cancer properties; whereas infusions showed no activity. Most traditional methods involve boiling. See this instructional video:

      Summarizing: it is up to you which compromise you want to make:
      – Chaga tea is already a compromise in itself, to start with, incomparable to a professionally produced ‘full-spectrum’ extract.
      – Lengthy heating creates a more powerful tea. Infusions result in limited therapeutic effect
      – Lengthy heating will also cause disintegration of the beta-glucan molecular chains, which destroys their bioactivity. This is the reason why professional extraction takes place under high pressure.**
      – Low heat will leave most of the beta-glucans embedded in their ‘chitin chains’, resulting in limited bioactivity/therapeutic effects.

      * Lucas, E.H. (1960) ‘Folklore and plant drugs’ in: Papers of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters 45:127-136
      ** Yui Matsunaga (2013) ‘Hot compressed water extraction of polysaccharides from Ganoderma lucidum using a semibatch reactor

  2. Pingback: Mushroom tea, anybody ? | backgrounds and monographs

Comments are closed.