Pine needle tea is an herbal tea made by steeping the needles of pine trees, particularly the Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), in hot water. It is sold commercially, and can also be made using foraged pine needles. While numerous claims are made regarding the possible health benefits of drinking pine needle tea, more research is needed.
- Origin: Korea, North America
- Alternative Names: White Pine Tea, Pine Tea
- Caffeine: None
What Is Pine Needle Tea?
Pine needle tea is made by brewing the needles of pine trees to make a flavorful hot beverage. Its flavor is described variously as piney, resinous, astringent, and citrusy, with undertones of mint. Older pine needles tend to taste more bitter and tannic than young ones. The tea can be sweetened with honey or sugar. It is transparent in color, or perhaps slightly tinged with green.
Commercial pine needle tea is made by harvesting white pine needles and then soaking them for about 24 hours. After that time, they are then rinsed, cleaned, and trimmed to remove any sharp tips before drying them in a shaded area.
Commercial pine needle teas in North America are made from the Eastern white pine. In Korea, this tea is made from the Korean red pine or Manchurian red pine. Another version of pine needle tea, known as "sollip-cha," is made in Korea, which involves fermenting the pine needles in a solution of sugar and water for a week or longer. Afterward, the liquid is filtered and drunk cold.
Pine needle tea is typically consumed freshly brewed and hot, although it could be chilled and enjoyed as a cold beverage as well. If you're very confident in your knowledge of trees, it could be enjoyed on a camping trip made from pine needles from nearby trees (but see note below about foraging).
How to Drink Pine Needle Tea
If you're purchasing commercial pine needle tea, it will come in the form of dried pine needles, whereas if you're foraging your own, you'll be using fresh ones.
Note on foraging: You should not forage your own pine needles to make tea unless you are 100 percent certain of what kind of tree you're taking the needles from. Not all pine trees make good tea, and some conifers are toxic. For instance, the Ponderosa pine, Lodgepole or Shore pine, common juniper, Monterey cypress, common yew, Norfolk Island pine, and Australian pine are all known to be toxic to humans.
Whether using fresh pine needles or dried ones, the process for brewing pine needle tea is the same. You could boil water in a pot and then remove from heat, add the pine needles to the hot water, and steep for 5 to 20 minutes. Or you could use a tea infuser or filter, or a French press, and pour your hot water over the pine needles, and then steep. Depending on whether you bought or foraged your pine needles, you might have to trim them, since they can be 3 to 4 inches long.
The ideal ratio seems to be about 1/2 cup of pine needles per 3 cups of water, but this may vary according to preference. The longer you steep, the more intense the flavor will be. Boiling the pine needles will cause the tea to turn murky and bitter, and isn't recommended.
Sweeten with sugar or honey, and flavor with fresh lemon, if desired.
Caffeine Content in Pine Needle Tea
Pine needle tea contains zero caffeine.
Buying and Storing
Pine needle tea might be available at specialty tea shops or health food shops, and it is definitely available online, which is the most likely place to purchase it. It's available in loose leaves and also as tea bags.
To store it, keep it tightly sealed and in a cool, dry place, away from light.
Many recipes use brewed tea as an ingredient, including cocktails and iced teas. You could substitute pine needle tea in any of these recipes. Or you could try mixing pine needle tea with other teas, such as lemon or mint teas.
Durzan DJ. Arginine, scurvy and Cartier's "tree of life". J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2009;5:5. Published 2009 Feb 2. doi:10.1186/1746-4269-5-5