Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) is an indigenous plant that grows abundantly throughout the Pacific Northwest and across many continents. Its common name, Fireweed, comes from its ability to colonize areas that have been previously impacted by fire, logging, and general disturbance. It was one of the first plants to arrive after the eruption of Mount St. Helens, as well as bombed urban areas in London during World War II. This sacred plant has a long history of use among indigenous tribes of North America as it is a resilient perennial plant that returns annually and provides food and fibre. Wildlife like bumblebees, deer, and bears all feed on its many parts, stalks and blossoms.
At Wild Coast Brew, we wild harvest the towering plant stalks when they are just flowering in the hot summer months. We then strip the leaves and leave them to wilt overnight on drying screens. We use the same method that is used to process and make black tea. Once the leaves are wilted properly, we meticulously roll the leaves for about an hour and ferment the leaves in a bamboo basket. Once the fermentation is complete, the aroma of the fireweed transforms from grassy and vegetal to fruity and sweet, almost like freshly pressed apples. Fermentation is then halted by oxidizing the pressed leaves in the sun to dry. The bright pink fireweed blossoms are then added to the dried fireweed tea leaves and infused for up to a year. What comes of this labor-intensive process is an earthy yet fruity brew that combines the flavors of deep black tea and earthy green tea. This tea is also referred to as “Ivan Chai” as fermented fireweed tea has been a part of long cultural tradition in Russia and Siberia.