In a nutshell: A lingering, sweet aftertaste makes this resinous, sweet herbal infusion used by Native Americans a refreshing must-try and also good to add some leaves when cooking game, soups and stews.
Labrador Tea (also known as Abitibi) is a shrub (Rhododendron groenlandicum), indigenous to North America unrelated to any Asian tea plants. It grows in peat bogs and other acidic environments around Greenland, Canada, and northern American states. Its thin, feathery leaves make an incredible aromatic infusion - a golden, pale liquor with a resinous taste reminiscent of pine and citrus and a sweet, lingering aftertaste. For centuries, Native Americans from diverse communities have known about the medicinal virtues of Labrador tea. Labrador tea leaves are recognised for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities. The tisane is also very soothing and helps in combating insomnia. Labrador Tea is increasingly popular in Nordic cooking, where it enhances dishes made with red meats, game birds, or even desserts. It can also make the base of a simple syrup for cocktails or pastry. The versatile leaf is also a common ingredient in many Boreal herb and tea blends. This complex tea give a wonderful flavour when cooking so just add a few leaves instead of bay leaves to any game or salmon dishes, soups or stews and try deglazing pans with some tea or leaves for an aromatic sauce.
How to use: A simple decoction can be made using Labrador tea. Just place the leaves in a pan of cold water, bring to a light boil and let simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. Strain and serve with or without a teaspoon of honey. Best to limit your consumption of Labrador Tea to 1 or 2 cups per day and not recommended for children or women who are pregnant or nursing.
About Épices de Cru
Épices de Cru began in 1982 as a catering partnership between Philippe and Ethné de Vienne. Their mission was a kind of “cooking pot anthropology:” learning the secrets of family cooking around the world and applying these techniques to the needs of hungry Montrealers. The secret, they learned, was spices. Over the last two decades, Philippe and Ethné have searched for the world’s best spices, accompanied by their children, Marika and Arik. The de Viennes believe in direct sourcing spices: visiting growing regions, spending time with growers, and developing personal relationships that last decades. In 2004, they officially opened their first spice shop in Montreal’s fantastic Jean Talon market– it’s since become a mecca for foodies from all over the world. I first visited in 2008 and have been buying and using their spices on a regular basis ever since that first exciting visit. They steadfastly maintain that they do nothing original, only facilitating the exchange of culinary common sense from one place to another. But, what they do is simply quite brilliant - by providing us with the finest quality ingredients, and their superb spice mixes, we can all experiment with unusual spices and recreate delicious recipes from around the world.