Grab A Branch, It’s Tea Time!

Old-growth Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

Ever wonder what it would be like to taste a tree?  Next time you’re in the woods, gather a few stray Douglas-fir branches and take them home to make a savory, fir-needle tea that is wildly delicious!

What to do:  Remove any cones that might still be attached, and thoroughly rinse Douglas-fir needles and stems in cold water.

Douglas-fir needles and twigs collected after a windy day.

Chop the twigs (use ones no bigger than a pencil’s width) and needles into quarter-inch sections.  Put one cup of the Douglas-fir pieces into a pitcher and pour boiling water over them.  Keep in mind, the more needles, the fuller-bodied the tea.  Let steep 10-15 minutes.  Strain liquid through cheesecloth, into a second pitcher; discard cheesecloth, needles, and stems.

Result:  a fragrant, amber-green tea with a mild, spicy flavor and a helping of vitamin C.  Sweeten with sugar or honey.  Serve hot or cold.

Guidelines:  Look for downed Douglas-fir branches after a big wind.  Collect fresh branches on the ground with green needles only.  Tea can be stored in the refrigerator for as long as a week.  There are no poisonous look-alikes, and the needles are available year-round.  

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For a single serving, collect several stems with needles, rinse, and then pat-dry with a cloth. Using kitchen scissors, cut ends of twigs in 1/4-inch pieces.
Fill both sides of steeper basket with twigs and needles.
Close the basket, and remove any pieces that might stick out.
Add steeper to your favorite teacup, and fill with boiled water.
Let steep 10 to 15 minutes, or longer if you like. Tea will be amber-green, and fragrant. Remove steeper (reheat tea if necessary) and sweeten with honey.
Young Douglas-fir forest.

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Grab A Branch, It’s Tea Time has appeared under the following titles in the following publications:

Pour Me A Cup Of Douglas-Fir, The Mountain Times, 1999.

Nature’s Cold Cure, East Clackamas County Gazette, 2004

Article and illustration as it appeared in The Oregonians “The Source” Better Homes & Gardens, 2008. (Also put on display at the Better Homes & Garden show 2008—Portland, Oregon.)

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Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved.

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4 thoughts on “Grab A Branch, It’s Tea Time!

    1. Good question, Cynthia. Yes, pine needles fresh or dried make a fine tea. As for cedar, the leaves can be used, but with much caution since they contain toxic oils. These oils can be skimmed to render the tea safe, and the tea taken in small doses only; no more than 1 cup per day. Effects from cedar oil can be quite painful and cause injury to the brain, kidneys, and liver, as well as convulsions, and death.

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