I once was told of a tree, whose needles were said to taste of sausages. It was summer, perhaps four or five years ago, while I was attending summer camp at Camp Nor’wester, on Johns Island in the San Juans. The sausage tree was suppose to be a strange relative of the normal pine tree. Almost unidentifiably different from any other pine tree, it held a secret. That secret was that the needles tasted like a beef frank. One day, I thought I had it. I swear I found a needle that tasted exactly like sausage. Which was why, when I returned to Johns Island this year as part of the camp staff, I was ecstatic when the naturalist responded to my request for a sausage tree by producing two needles. I tasted them, and sure enough, they tasted exactly like sausage. The goal was met.ben dane post san juan

I started making tisanes from pine needles. These did not taste of sausage, but were intriguingly citrus flavored and aromatic. It was only at the end of the summer that I learned that those two needles had been dipped in sausage grease, and that the ponderosa pine is just surprisingly delicious when boiled in water.

The pine tisane however, was amazing! I tried multiple ways of preparation. The first was about two handfuls of needles, boiled in water for twenty minutes, and then strained. The result was mild but golden-colored, and had a delicious minty note, over a general pine aroma. Next was sun tea, which I left in bright sunlight (with a reflector). The resulting tea was darker and more full-bodied in taste, but lacked the minty lift of the boiled tea. It also carried with it a strong taste of swamp. This method was not really recommended. Third attempt was an overnight soak, indoors without sunlight. The result was similar to method two, but tasted less bitter. In all, boiling was the way to go.

After some research, I found that many people apparently brew pine tisanes regularly.  The Practical Primitive blog gives a recipe for a Pine Needle Tea and a Medicinal Pine Needle tea. The Pine Needle tea is a cup of water poured over the needles, and steeped for 1-2 minutes, while the medicinal tea is the needles boiled for 2-3 minutes. I guess my pine-tisane-first-method was extremely medicinal.

The Swedes have a name for pine tisanes, “Tallstrunt.” A very important part of this is that the Swedish word for “Pine Tree” is “Tall”.

“Oh wow look at that tall!”, or,

“That’s a tall tall!”

In Vancouver, British Columbia, the tea bar O5 Rare Tea Bar is known for it’s brew, “The Grand Fir.” It’s a tisane brewed multiple times from specially treated pine material. The pine used is prepared by being exposed to great heat, in the same way green tea is heated to prevent oxidation. The resulting pine is quite dry but still green, and it is intensely aromatic. It reminds one of Christmas trees.  A twig is used for three brews. The first brew is very clear and mild. It has little flavor, but a clear minty note at the beginning. The cod liver oil danesecond brew is almost twice as full in flavor. It has notes of stone fruit and citrus, as well as the delightful hint of mint. It smells excellently piney. It also exhibits a particular grassyness; this is similar to the one that green tea gives off. The third brew exhibits a smokey, campfire tinge. It has less of a fruity taste, but the strongest piney aroma. Most of my companions there with me tasting the tea at 05 described “The Grand Fir” as “Minty but not too strong,” and “Fresh peppermint.” One person said, “Smells like cod liver oil.” A claim I do not agree with.

The pine tisane is an excellent source of Vitamin C. It can be a little bitter. A good solution I found to the somewhat watery, swampy taste of my third method (pine needles soaked overnight) was to combine the pine tea 50/50 with orange peel sun tea. The two flavors balanced each other perfectly. While the strong citrus tastes powerful at first, it quickly fades. The subtle pine soaks in slowly. The result is a very balanced brew.

In conclusion, go brew some trea.

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