Fermented blackberry leaf tea

This recipe is one from my forthcoming book Fermenting Everything , published by Countryman Press and due for release on June 16th in both the UK and USA.

I like this recipe as it captures something of spring, a time of renewal and hope. Two things we must cling onto. If you can’t get out to pick any blackberry leaves this year then please bookmark this page as there will be other years, other springs and plenty of happiness ahead.

Black berry leaf tea

Yield: 4oz/100g

Preparation time: 1 hour (includes plenty of time to pick)

Fermentation time: 6 weeks

Sometimes when you are out foraging it is hard to get a real abundance of a product, not so with this next recipe as if blackberries growing in your county then you can be sure they will have spread. Many will even class this delicious fruit as a weed, and it has been said that the thorns are like lawyers, once they hook you in you can’t get out.

With lawyers in mind, I recommend wearing gloves while you pick these leaves as they can have quite a few spikes hiding on the leaf stems. The braver among you will soon realize that a delicate but firm pinch and pull technique will quickly furnish the picker with a basket full of leaves to turn into tea. Ideally, I’d pick in the early spring as the leaves tend to get a little thicker later in the season. If you are trying to visualize what 4oz/100g of black berry leaves look like they would fill an adult sized baseball hat or bowler hat if you are from the UK.

Equipment needed

  • 1 x basket or bag
  • Thick gloves
  • 1 x rolling pin/meat hammer
  • 1 x 1 pint/500ml mason jar
  • Dehydrator (optional)
  • Wire sieve

Ingredients

  • 100g/4oz blackberry leaves

1. Pick your blackberry leaves. When picking from the wild, I prefer to pick from many different plants as I believe the greater diversity improves the flavor of the tea and also to ensure that you are not decimating a habit for local invertebrates.  Use gloves and go for the top leaves leaving the coarse, harder leaves behind.

2. Once you have enough leaves return home and empty your basket out on the countertop. With your meat hammer or rolling pin bash the leaves. You are trying to break the cell structure to encourage fermentation. After about five minutes of pulverizing you leaves will be ready.

3. Being careful not to be pricked, place the leaves into a jar. Around 4oz will neatly fit inside a pint sized mason jar, seal tightly.

4. Leave for six weeks in a warm place and out of direct sunlight. I also find that they can develop a furry mold after a week or so, to help prevent this sporadically take your leaves out of the jar and pull them apart.

5. After two or three weeks they will start to darken and the aroma will change, it becomes rather sweet smelling and “of the forest”. Some say it become more powerfully of blackberries but I am not sure if this is the best way to describe the aroma, it certainly smells more like the autumn/fall.

6. The next step is to process them, they will need to be dry. To do this you can either turn your stove onto a low heat of around 200°F/100°C with the door open a little or pop them into a dehydrator. In both cases keep them in there until they are dry to the touch. The time will vary in accordance to how dry the leaves are.

7. Once dry, put on your gloves and rub the leaves until they crumble into small flakes you can also pass them through a wire sieve but it’s much less fun.

8. Store your leaves in a dark, air tight container.

To make the tea use 1 teaspoon of blackberry leaves per cup of hot water and leave it to steep for a little longer than regular black tea – about 5 minutes.

You could take a (tea) leaf out of the book of Sweden where these leaves are mixed with regular black tea to make a fragrant and uplifting tea to rival Earl Grey tea. I’d recommend a 3:1 mix for something fruity but not overpowering.