Rosebay Willow Herb Tea – (Ivan Chai, Koporye Tea)
This is an easy to make traditional fermented black tea. It is a lovely tasting nutrient loaded tea called, Ivan chai or Koporye tea. This is a traditional Russian tea that has been around since the 12th Century. Before 1917 it was produced and exported to countries all over the world, in fact, it was one of Russia’s biggest exports. It has a vast array of medicinal benefits; anti-inflammatory, treats colds, anti-aging, wound healing, can normalise bowel activity, useful in digestion diseases. It was a traditional treatment for the prostrate gland and optimises testosterone levels which could promote erectile function. It can assist in the stabilization of the metabolism, build immunity, improve circulation, promotes relaxation, relieves migraines and headaches. It is caffeine free and non-addictive and has a strong sweet flavour. I would highly recommend introducing this drink into your life daily.
Step 1 Harvesting
The Rosebay willowherb leaves are picked from the plant leaving the flowers and a few leaves on each plant for our insect friends. The leaves are then sorted discarding any that are diseased discoloured or damaged.
Step 2 Wilting
Place the leaves out of direct sunlight and allow to wilt or soften in a basket or on a piece of grease proof paper for about 12 hours. When you can bend the leaf in half without the main stem breaking you are ready for the next step.
Step 3 Rolling
Next the leaves are rolled between the palms your hands. This process bruises the leaves breaking down the tissues mixing the polyphenols in the leaves with the polyphenol oxidase enzymes. You can roll a few leaves together at a time, then add to an airtight container to keep out any insects.
Step 4 Fermentation
The fermentation process is underway putting it in an aerobic environment for 3–5 days. During this time, occasionally move the leaves about to help the oxidization process. At this stage you could add extra flavours by adding rose and jasmine petals, lemon balm or mint. After 3 days check the colour of the tea, you are looking for a dark brown to black. This is a good time to test the flavour of your tea, by brewing a cup. When you feel you have the taste that suits your palette stop the fermentation by proceeding to the next step.
Step 5 Drying
So, by drying the leaves you are stopping the fermentation process. Take the leaves from the container spread on a baking sheet and put in the oven at 90–120 degrees Fahrenheit. Move the leaves about a few times during this stage to ensure they dry evenly. Once they are dry and then cooled, they are ready to be stored in an airtight container. I like to use glass jars. The tea can be drunk straight away but it gets better if left to cure for 2 – 4 months.
Put 1 -2 teaspoons per cup of tea into your tea pot pore over boiling water and steep for 15 minutes poor through a tea strainer into your cup and enjoy.