Homemade Dark Forest Chai: an Earthy Herbal Tea for all Seasons

Years ago, my friend Madeline gifted me a small tin of Dark Forest Chai, and I’ve been in love with it ever since. Unfortunately, the company that sold the tea went out of business (RIP to Portland’s famous Townshend’s tea company, one of the many casualties of the pandemic).

The last time I tried to order the tea, I found out the company had closed its doors, although the tea expertise lives on via Dr. Brew Kombucha, which was born from the same team. Knowing that Dr. Brew was affiliated, I reached out to their customer service team to see if I could get my hands on some of my special tea. They told me they didn’t sell teas any longer, and they didn’t have the recipe to share as it was custom blended by another company.

So I did what I usually do: I figured out make my own version of this lovely tea. I reason that because they didn’t share the recipe I’m not infringing on any copyright issues: I simply used the ingredient list (which I had thankfully saved from my last purchased batch) to make my own blend that best resembles the original.

dark forest chai tea
Layers of flavor in my homemade Dark Forest Chai: honeybush tea is the base, along with cacao nibs, cinnamon chips, carob chips, and more.

What I love about this Dark Forest Chai tea:

  • It’s super warming and rich, and has a well-rounded flavor from the array of ingredients.
  • Caffeine-free, however, can give you a little bit of energy if you’re sensitive to cacao/chocolate.
  • The main ingredient (honeybush tea) is high in antioxidants and totally delicious. I order 1-pound bags from Mountain Rose Herbs.
  • The tea is great for digestion because of the potent carminative herbs like ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg; carminative is a fancy word that means herbs good for your digestion.
  • Easy to make once you gather all the herbs.
It’s pretty gorgeous as layers, and looks pretty once you shake it up, too!

Here are My Notes about the Ingredients

I consider myself quite the herb nerd, and while I had a few of these items on hand, like cacao nibs and ginger, I still needed to source most of these ingredients as they are new to my apothecary. I like to choose herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs, Frontier Co-Op, or Starwest Botanicals. All of these companies have great loose herbs, teas, spices, DIY body care ingredients and more; however, for this recipe I prefer Mountain Rose Herbs as you can purchase in smaller 4 ounce packages instead of a full pound.

What is Honeybush Tea?

Honeybush is my new favorite tea for 2021. Honeybush, a tea from South Africa, is a loose, small cut herb that is a great foundation for herbal blends or delightful on its own. I bought a large amount to make my first batches of this recipe, and lately I’ve been enjoying it cold brewed. The sweet, tangy flavor is similar to rooibos but more bright and light. Like rooibos, it’s considered a red tea. There is no caffeine in this tea, and it is full of antioxidants. Traditionally honeybush was used for healing respiratory ailments, and preliminary studies show that it is good for heart health and skin health, likely due to the high antioxidant concentration.

What is Chicory?

Chicory is a medicinal root that has a long history as a food; when roasted, it has an earthy flavor similar to coffee. In fact, it’s used in Cafe du Monde’s famous New Orleans chicory coffee, and in my beloved Teecchino. In fact, the whole chicory family is used as foods and medicine. The most common leafy versions of chicory are radicchio and endive. The roots, which can be cooked and eaten as is, are most often baked or roasted to be used as a coffee substitute. Chicory is a commonly-added food ingredient too, in energy bars, cereals, and other processed foods, as it adds bulk and has a special type of starch called inulin.

What is Dandelion Root?

Those cute little yellow flowers in your yard hold medicinal secrets! Dandelion has been used for centuries as a food and healing herb, and it’s naturally healing for the liver and acts as a diuretic. Like most liver-cleansing herbs, dandelion is quite bitter, and this natural bitterness might be off-putting if you’re not accustomed to it. I discovered it a few years ago—roasted dandelion root tea was one of the detox drinks used during my Panchakarma Ayurvedic cleanse, and it has become my new favorite morning habit. The richness and depth of dandelion tea first thing in the morning has been my new favorite habit since the cleanse. You can buy it as tea bags, or you can buy in bulk. It’s a chunky, chopped, woody root that can be brewed on its own or used in blends like this. It’s caffeine-free, and works great as a simple nighttime latte with a splash of milk.

What is Red Clover?

Alongside dandelions in the yard you might also see clovers popping up. Clover is also commonly grown as feedstock for animals around the world. Most of the health benefits found in red clover seems to come from the flowers themselves, and unlike all the other ingredients in this blend, it doesn’t taste great as a solo brewed herb (hot or cold). It’s used here mostly for color, so if you don’t want to purchase the red clover, you can skip it. To keep the color, you could substitute something else green: maté would be nice (which would mean caffeinating the final tea blend), or spearmint, although the flavor is strong and will alter the final taste.

What are Cacao Nibs?

Cacao nibs are the fermented, dried, roasted and crushed cacao beans that eventually become chocolate. In this state, the nibs are crunchy and bitter, and I love using them in all kinds of foods. I add to my morning chia bowls, blend in with homemade energy bars, toss with granola and no-bake granola, and use to top ice cream for a nice crunch and chocolate flavor. Cacao nibs are rich with magnesium, fiber, and flavor. Cacao has naturally occurring theobromine, which can be mildly stimulating; if you’re very sensitive to chocolate or caffeine don’t drink this right before bedtime.


How to Make Homemade Dark Forest Chai

½ cup loose honeybush tea
¼ cup cacao nibs
2 Tablespoons cinnamon chips (chopped cinnamon sticks, not ground cinnamon)
1 Tablespoon red clover leaf
1 Tablespoon chopped, roasted chicory (or chicory granules)
1 Tablespoon roasted dandelion root
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger

  1. Toss all of these ingredients together in a large jar.
  2. Toss to combine to distribute the ground herbs with the chunky herbs.
  3. Store in an airtight jar or container for up to a year.

Creamy Dark Forest Chai Bedtime Latte

1 Tablespoon prepared Dark Forest Chai tea blend
6 ounces water
1 teaspoon coconut sugar, honey, or maple syrup (optional)
2 ounces of coconut milk or macadamia nut milk, warmed

  1. Use a teaball or strainer for the tea.
  2. Boil 6 ounces of water, and pour over tea. Cover, and let steep 4-5 minutes.
  3. Remove tea leaf mixture.
  4. Add in sweetener of choice, and stir in the warmed milk.
  5. Add a sprinkle of ground nutmeg if desired.
  6. Sip and enjoy!


About Andrea Bertoli 591 Articles
A vegan chef, cookbook author, wellness educator, writer, surfer, and yogi based in Honolulu. Follow my delicious adventures on Instagram

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