Wild Pestle Tea


I have an underground tipster.  Perhaps you've seen this shadowy figure around town, sweeping through shops and farmers markets in a hooded floor-length burgundy cape.  She sniffs spices, squeezes cheeses, and trails away with baskets of fruit.  By night, she's able to channel all of the latest food and cooking trends by encircling the glowing light of her crystal ball.

Or... something like that. Her ability to ferret out food news often seems like sorcery to me.

Last week, she forwarded me an article about a gourmet tea shop in New York that is serving a specialty drink called pestle tea (more commonly known as pounded tea).  So the story goes, this drink was created for hard-working Chinese laborers, who needed fortification from the tea's ingredients.  You see, this pestle tea is made creamy-rich and hearty with the addition of ground nuts and seeds.  The article goes on to note that this tea is quite laborious to make, taking at least 20 minutes to grind the ingredients properly with a mortar and pestle that look very much like a Japanese suribachi, before being combined with steaming hot brewed tea.

All I could think was, "Dude, twenty minutes? I'm pretty sure my fine Mexican molcajete (a large, sturdy mortar and pestle made from lava rock) could knock that out in the time it takes to brew the tea!"  Sorry to disappoint you, I do occasionally say dude.  I don't know where that came from, and I'm not proud.  But perhaps you'll be consoled by the fact that I was correct about the molcajete grinding out a creamy seed paste in no time.

Pestle tea is great for people like me, who occasionally want a rich drink, but don't enjoy thick creamed coffees or hot chocolate.  It is also perfect for the dairy-free crowd.  Of course pestle tea can be made with traditional black and green teas, but I prefer to brew mine with at least some wildcrafted ingredients.  I've also found that small amounts of cinnamon stick and orange peel are fan-stinking-tastic in this kind of tea.

Wild Pestle Tea


This is not so much a recipe as a method.  You can use whatever combination of toasted nuts, seeds, and tea ingredients you enjoy to create a steamy creamy brew.  Place small amounts (I've found 1-2 Tbsp. to work nicely for a cup of tea served in my jumbo American-style coffee mug) of your favorite nuts and seeds, along with an equal amount of your favorite tea-makings into a stone mortar and pestle (I vote molcajete all the way, but use whatever you have, even if that means a small food processor).  Grind away until you have a product which is as smooth and grit-free as possible.

Meanwhile, brew up a bit of your favorite tea blend, sans nuts and seeds. 

Once you have ground your nut/seed/tea mixture into a paste, pour in your brewed tea, whisk and stir until they combine, and pour into a tall mug.  After you've enjoyed your pestle tea, there is likely to be a bit of tasty gruel in the bottom of your mug.

Here's how it went down for me today.  I dumped a few toasted pumpkin seeds, some dried linden flowers, dried rose petals, and a few dried nettle leaves into my molcajete.  I ground them down to a fine oily paste, which only took about 2 minutes.  In the meantime, I was brewing a big mug full of linden, rose, nettle tea.  When the hot tea was properly infused, and the seeds and plant matter were ground, I combined and bashed them about with my bamboo whisk for a bit before ladling the slightly frothy heavy blend into a mug.  The tea had all of the herbal flavors I'd expect of my linden, rose, nettle blend, but was also made luxurious and opaque green by the addition of the ground pumpkin seeds.

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It's tea month at the Wild Things.  Come celebrate wildcrafted teas with us by sharing your own favorite blend at wildthings.roundup@gmail.com before the end of the month.

Comments

  1. My grandmother drinks this all the time. It's pretty common where she comes from. I thought it was gross when I was a kid, but now I like it a lot.

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    1. That's what I thought, that this must be a pretty common drink in a lot of places. I'm sure there are people who are laughing that food nerds have "discovered" pounded tea. But that's the joy of being a food nerd to me, that we get to exchange ideas and make what is old new again, and spread the joy of good recipes and techniques. Much better food than fashion, right? I mean, has the comeback of legwarmers really been a good thing?

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  2. My wife can't drink milk, and I'm sort of ashamed to admit that we buy almond milk to put in her tea. This seems like a much better idea, since there are none of the preservatives that comes with the almond milk. Plus, it just sounds really good. I think we'll try walnuts.

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    1. Just think of all the fresh custom brews you can make! I've not yet tried walnuts, but I'm certain they'd be good. I've also gotta say that part of the fun of this recipe is in the ritual, the way that grinding forces you to slow down and concentrate for a few minutes.

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  3. For someone who eats roadkill, you sure do have a lot of vegetarian-friendly recipes! LOL Not that I'm complaining but I was just laughing about how I'm a veg, and one of my favorite blogs is written by someone who talks opening about eating roadkill.

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    1. Well, I do happen to also really love veggie-tables!

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  4. Oh boy, do I ever want to run run run and try this! Thanks for sharing!

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  5. I just tried this with lapsang souchong, pine nuts and cardamon. I somehow missed the whisking step. While it was delicious, I'm sure more conscientious grinding and whisking will make it even better :)

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    1. Genius combination - smokey, spicy, sweet! I'm not sure how much the whisking helps, to be honest. It is fun, at any rate. The descriptions I read about how the tea is traditionally served said that it is rather expected that it is somewhat of a gruel. The tea shop, however, seems to have elevated it to some art form. Who knows, I'm never unhappy with the end product!

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  6. Oooh, this sounds awesome. Could I be at fault for giving you that bad "dude" habit?

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    1. Yes, I need a scapegoat, certainly it is *your* fault. ~points a long scrawny finger in your direction~

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