Mulled Sumac Tea

Jan 12 / Phyllis D. Light, MA
It’s red, a bit sourish, nourishing, and slightly astringent with a lemony flavor. You can drink it warm or cold, with added sweetener and spices, or enjoy it au naturel. This mulled sumac tea is a lovely winter drink served warm to help support the immune, respiratory, and urinary tract systems and to build the blood. It’s also a wonderful summer drink served cold to lower the body temperature in the heat.

There are three different sumacs that thrive in the South and they are used interchangeably – winged sumac (Rhus copallinum), smooth sumac (Rhus glabra), and staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina). The berries range from reddish-brown to bright red in the late summer and early fall. It’s almost impossible to confuse it with a toxic look-alike, poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) which has white berries and grows near swampy areas. Stay away from white berries, and you shouldn’t have a problem.

Sumac can help reduce inflammation, lower blood sugar, improve iron stores, and it’s high in vitamin C and malic acid. It contains both oleic and linoleic acids which support heart health and hormonal systems. Sumac is also high in antioxidants. 

My favorite sumac winter drink is quite easy to prepare. You can use ground sumac or whole berries. I’m going to use ground sumac in the following recipe since it’s easy to find online. However, at home, I use whole berries that I’ve wild-harvested and dried. Sumac also goes well with other herbal teas, especially chamomile, peppermint, and mullein. It also goes well with the spices ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg (you can learn some about these spices in the recent Traditional Holiday Herbs, Spices and Plants).

Mulled Sumac Tea

  • 1 teaspoon sumac powder per cup of water (place in tea bag to avoid straining)
  • Water - 1 cup per person
  • 1 cup of apple juice per person
  • Honey or sugar to taste
  • Mulling spices - cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, nutmeg (place in tea bag to avoid straining)

  1. Bring the water to a boil and add the sumac tea bag.
  2. Lower to a simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Turn off the heat and let sit for 15 minutes.
  4. Transfer the red sumac tea to a large pot.
  5. Add apple juice and mulling spices.
  6. Bring the sumac tea, apple juice, and mulling spices to a boil.
  7. Reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes and then turn off the heat.
  8. Add sweetener to taste while the brew is hot.

Yum, yum, yum!
As always make sure to forage for plants away from roads and pollution as much as possible. Never overharvest any plant, as they are of course not only here for our enjoyment, but also here for the insects, bees, and birds. Have fun out there!
The information provided in this digital content is not medical advice, nor should it be taken or applied as a replacement for medical advice. Matthew Wood, the Matthew Wood Institute of Herbalism, ETS Productions, and their employees, guests, and affiliates assume no liability for the application of the information discussed.