Indigenous Teas and Refreshing Drinks

This post is inspired by the book “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen” by Sean Sherman 

Indigenous people have enjoyed traditional teas and drinks brewed from local herbs and plants for centuries. Many of these beverages contain healing and medicinal properties. According to Chef Sean Sherman, “North American Native medicines share much with traditional Eastern medicines: all are grounded in a rich understanding of the natural world.” Below are just a few types of teas and beverages and their benefits and uses. 

Yaupon Tea 

Yaupon is native to Florida and the southeastern United States, has been used for thousands of years by indigenous communities for ceremonies, as a food and as a medicine. For example, descendants of the Timucua tribe, which has been extinct since 1800, lived in what is now North Central Florida for about 10,000 years before European contact. The Timucua people used Yaupon for a variety of purposes. In addition, the Ais and the Muscogee (Creek) tribes utilized Yaupon in ceremonies, as a food and as a medicine. 

Shop our selection of Yaupon tea from Yaupon Bros. American Tea Company and CatSpring Yaupon.  

Labrador Tea 

Made from steeped Labrador plant, this tea tastes much like English breakfast tea. The plants grow in thick, wet soil of lowland bogs across North America. The foliage is leathery and can be dark green, rusting, or magenta colored. The plants gives off a strong citrusy lemon scent. Many people use Labrador tea to soothe colds, sore throats and other chest ailments. 

Cedar Tea 

Cedar is a sacred tree and is part of many ceremonies. It can be used to purify your home, in sweat-lodges and as a medicine. The tea is used to treat fevers, chest colds and the flu. To make cedar tea, simmer two cups of fresh cedar in four cups of boiling water for about 10 minutes until the water is golden. 

Mint Tea 

Mint tea can be served chilled or warm and is refreshing and crisp. Mix with raspberry or blueberry juice for a refreshing beverage. Mint tea has been known to soothe an upset stomach, improve digestion and even treat bad breath. 

Bergamot Tea 

Bergamot has a strong minty flavor and is very potent, so use sparingly. Bergamot can help with stress relief, and protects against diabetes, heart disease and may even aid in weight loss. 

Raspberry Leaf Tea 

Raspberry leaf tea is perfect after a heavy meal, as it aids in digestion. Raspberry tea is well-known for its ability to stimulate labor and help ease childbirth. It also boosts the immune system and reduces inflammation. To make raspberry tea, simmer both the raspberry canes and leaves in a covered pot with water for about 20 minutes. 


Chaga is a mushroom that grows on birch trees and is loaded with antioxidants. Many claim antioxidants help fight cancer. Chaga has a mild coffee flavor with notes of chocolate. To make chaga, dry the mushroom and grind into chunks. Simmer in water for 20 minutes to an hour and mix with nut milk, honey or maple syrup.  

Sumac Lemonade 

Sumac lemonade is made with the berries from the staghorn sumac tree. These berries ripen mid-August and turn a deep red color. Sumac may help lower blood sugar and is high in Vitamin C.  

To make sumac lemonade, Chef Sherman recommends picking a dozen sumac berries, crunching them up and adding to a gallon of cold water. Steep the berries for 10-20 minutes and strain into a pitcher. Sweeten with honey or syrup to taste.