Enjoy a Cup of Indian Tea

May 8, 2020

Indian Tea Bloom

Indian Tea Bloom

Indian Tea is an herbal tea that grows wild and is crafted on Indian Reservations and Pueblos throughout New Mexico and Arizona (Figure 1). Also known as Wild Tea, Hopi Tea, Navajo Tea, or Cota Tea, the tea tastes very mild, and according to Native wisdom, it helps to prevent colds and aids in the healing process—therefore it is widely used by the Hopi, Apache, Navajo, and Pueblo people for that purpose. It has been reported that Indian Tea is used as a mild diuretic, can be utilized as an antiseptic in the urinary tract, alleviates indigestion, and helps with mild fevers. The wild herb resonates deeply with Native people as a means of connecting distant pieces of culture, great-grandparents, and elders’ teachings—specifically around harvesting the herb. (I remember the elders’ teachings as part of growing up.)

In mid-summer, Indian Tea can be found in open fields and hillsides by their bright yellow flowers beginning to open (Figure 2). Flowers are the crowning blooms of a thin plant that can grow up to two feet tall. Indian Tea thrives in the heat of the New Mexico region.

How to Collect and Prepare Indian Tea

Indian Tea sprouts up in abundance during the spring—its flowers appear at the end of its stalks in mid-to-late summer, signaling that it’s ready to be harvested. The plant is harvested by snapping it off low-down on its stem, taking care not to pull out its roots so it will grow back. Then shake the plant to release its seeds back to mother earth, that way it will be replenished for the following season.

When the tea is gathered and rinsed, the plants are folded into tidy bundles and strung into a garland (Figures 3 and 4). A garland of at least 20 harvested rolls of tea is enough to keep a family happy and healthy for the year. This is a time to start to feel happy and appreciate what is learned about traditional ways of life.

How To Make Indian Tea

Yield: Each bundle makes 4 to 8 cups
Ingredients: 1–2 tea bundle and water
Material: 2.0 liter pot

  1. Add 1 bundle (1–2 bundles according to your taste) to 2 cups of water.
  2. Bring to a hard boil for 8 minutes. The water will change to an orangish color and will start to give a sweet aroma, indicating it is ready to drink. Each bundle can be used 2–3 times.
  3. Sweeten as desired, with or without sugar or honey, fresh mint, and/or cinnamon sticks.
  4. Enjoy hot or cold.

We brew Indian Tea throughout the year—in the winter months to keep us healthy and stay warm, and in the summer months as iced tea (just add ice cubes with tea in a cup—especially after a hard day of working outdoors). We also drink it to stay connected to our traditional ways of life and preserve our tradition. (Consumer Note: Before you decide to take any medicinal herb or herbal supplement, be sure to consult with your health care professional first. Avoid self-diagnosis and self-medication.)

— Stephanie Martinez (Ohkay Owingeh), IAIA Land-Grant Administrative Assistant

About IAIA Land-Grant

The Institute of American Indian Arts’ (IAIA) Land-Grant Programs is a 1994 land-grant serving institution that received its status upon the establishment of the original 1994 act. IAIA Land-Grant provides agricultural, educational, and technical assistance to New Mexico’s 22 Native American communities, IAIA students, staff, and faculty, and the surrounding New Mexico communities through culturally-accepted extension education and research programs. It provides audiences and communities with access to USDA and non-USDA opportunities and resources. Audiences will be able to gain the skills and knowledge to successfully achieve their academic goals, agricultural endeavors, ensure food security through sustainable practices, and enhance their health and wellness to be contributing, and thriving, members of their communities.

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