On a recent cross country skiing trip someone brought some Sweetfern tea made from the wild sweetfern and dried. I tried some and it was miraculously something I'd been looking for. A drink that lacks caffeine, but also has some of the flavor that makes something like tea tasty. "Tannins" was suggested as what might make the sweet fern have that distinctive tea taste.
While mountain biking with V last week, we got pretty off-trail. At one point we'd been thrashing around in the woods for a bit and were standing on an old and wrecked path collecting ourselves for the next thrash when I looked down to see a plant that I thought... Could it be? I pulled out the "Seek" app on my phone which helps identify plants, and sure enough it was the sought after Sweetfern!
I filled up my pack, and let it dry on a cookie sheet on the dining room table. After a week of drying, I pulled the leaves off the stems and filled a big jar with the dried leaves. I also made a batch to drink. It has a very tea-like taste with a pleasant bitterness from the tannis.
Then today, while biking again I found several big plants right next to the parking lot at Gurney Lane. I grabbed some of that. This time I used the fresh leaves, and steeped those for five minutes, and filled a bunch of bottles.