Do you like the flavor of Root Beer? Make your own Sassafras Tea.

fresh made Sassafras Tea

fresh made Sassafras Tea

Foraging for the root that made A& W Root Beer famous is a family hobby. We love the taste and smell of Sassafras tea in the spring time. In our small West Virginia cottage, tea is a staple of life. I prefer it cold with a little sugar but it is also nice as a hot tea with honey. Sassafras is a wild tree/bush that is almost considered a weed or filth in the Appalachian mountains. Farmers  regularly mow the bushes down for pasture weed control. So to find sassafras you just need to look along road sides and abandoned fields.

look for leaves that are lobed..sometime with three like this or mitten style with two, one large lobe and one small

look for leaves that are lobed..sometime with three like this or mitten style with two, one large lobe and one small

    This batch of roots, that Tom gathered, came from his Highway Crew. They have been removing dead trees from an area in our state that was hit hard by a fall storm and they needed to remove several damaged and dying Sassafras Trees in order to clear a section of the road. Tom brought home a couple of pounds of roots and I took the smallest and youngest to make tea. As you can see in the following photo the roots have a sliver skin cover on them, then a red bark that is  covering a white root. The silver skin is the only thing that needs removed when making tea. The red bark gives the tea its color and the white root adds the flavor.

young Sassafras roots ready to clean

young Sassafras roots ready to clean

  After cleaning and removing the silver skin of the roots, you need  a pot large enough to boil the roots in.I personaly use a 10 quart stock pot.It  easily makes a gallon of tea with lots of room to spare.

ready to boil cleaned roots

ready to boil cleaned roots

Into this stock pot I put about a gallon of water. Then I add 4 or 5 roots and boil. The time to make a tea  is around 30 minutes to 40 minutes depending on how strong you want the flavor. Tom loves the “root beer” flavor so we boil ours about 40 minutes. The hot tea is then poured through cheese cloth and a strainer and sugar added to the pitcher. I use 3/4 cup of white sugar to every gallon if tea. Mix well and chill the tea several hours and or add ice.

Tea stained pitcher ready with strainer and cheese cloth

Tea stained pitcher ready with strainer and cheese cloth

   The roots dry on a dishtowle  and are reused several times. We boil them at least three times and the favor,color and scent remains the same every time. One of the benefits to making this tea is the wonderful aroma that fills the house. The sweet scent of root beer fills the house within minutes of setting the roots on the counter, then intensifies with a rolling boil on the stove. Two pounds of roots lasts us for about two months as we drink the tea slowly. On the plus side this tea contains no caffeine and the tea needs less sugar. Sassafras has no bitterness or acidic flavors to cover up. So for a foraged, cold or warm drink that teases great, I think that is worth digging up a few roots every year.

  Hope that the next time you are thinking a cold glass of tea to sip on the porch, you will consider trying Sassafras tea as great way to cool off and enjoy the wonderful gift that nature has given us.

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Categories: country cooking, family fun, Foraging, ice tea, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Do you like the flavor of Root Beer? Make your own Sassafras Tea.

  1. I love our Sassafras trees! They are gorgeous in the Fall!!

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  2. Pingback: Books, Hot Tea and a New Bed | Mountain Mama

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  4. Anonymous

    Is sassfras tea safe to drink? Because, I’ve read that sassafras tea contains safrole, which is said to cause cancer.

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    • I am guessing that if is was a major problem that we would hear more about it… I have friends and family who drink it regularly over the summer and have not had any ill effects but then again if you drink sugar free pop all year your chance of cancer is much higher then if you drink Sassafras tea over the summer. I am not sure but I am guessing that the amount of safrole boiled from a couple roots in a gallon of water that you may drink 4 glasses of on a hot day is still pretty low.

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  5. david pierce

    a small pinch of salt greatly reduces bitterness

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