Somehow, hammocks seem to encourage savoring experiences like drinking a hot beverage. Whether it’s coffee in the morning, a cold beer after a long day, or a mug of hot tea just before bed, everything seems to taste better when you’re slung between a few trees. Trail tea is delicious, sustainable, fun, and extremely easy to make. Grabbing a handful of the nearest tree and tossing it into a pot should satisfy the backwoodsmen, ultra-survivalist fantasy that most backpackers have. Grabbing the wrong handful of flora will only satisfy your urge to terrible stomach problems. When in doubt, go for only the most recognizable plants.
Spearmint and wintergreen grows like a weed in most parts of the country, making it a prime target for delicious tea. It’s also easy to identify because it reeks of mint. If you are unsure, break up a few leaves and take whiff. If you don’t recognize the smell as mint, it’s not. Throw a handful of leaves in your put and steep for about 5 minutes.
Some say Spruce tips work best, others argue for Douglas Fir. In reality, the kind of pine needles you use for your tea is a matter of availability and personal preference. Regardless of what type you choose, you can plan on benefiting from a massive dose of Vitamin C, warding off all kinds of typical backpacker problems like scurvy. When harvesting the needles, take the greenest ones found at the very tips of branches. These are the youngest needles and typically the tastiest.
You can use the leaves of any edible berry to make a sweet tea of approximately the same flavor. Popular options are wild blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, huckleberries and even thimble berries. If the accompanying berries are ripe and available, you can add them to the pot for a boost in flavor. Use the leftover berries as a makeshift jam on top of bread or crackers for a quick dessert.
Blow on a dandelion flower and you are supposedly granted a wish, but as any child without a flying elephant will tell you, it never works; unless your wish was for tea. Dandelion blossoms, roots and leaves are all good for making a very dynamic tea. Drink it early in the steeping process and it tastes sweet like tea, steep for a few minutes longer and the concoction will turn bitter, like coffee.
Licorice ferns are found in most of the western United States. While there are dozens of species of ferns, the licorice variety are fairly easy to identify. They are small and almost always grow on the mossy trunks of large maple trees. They look like the common sword ferns that are abundant, but smaller and not clustered around one individual point. You can brew the entire frond, but the tips are the freshest and most delectable.