Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) is an indigenous plant that grows abundantly throughout the Pacific Northwest and across North America. This sacred plant has a long history of use among indigenous tribes of North America as it is a hardy perennial that returns annually.
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 to release their polyphenols 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 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 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 nicknamed “Ivan Chai” as fermented fireweed tea has been a part of long cultural tradition in Russia and Siberia.