Cannabis consumption goes beyond smoking and vaping, even if all you have on hand is nothing but the leftovers of a bunch of fresh herb.
Marijuana “byproducts” such as leaves and stems can be readily turned into desirable, THC-bearing goods, with tinctures and infused oils routine candidates for making the most out of your bud. But if you’re looking for something a bit more immediate, and a unique way to get to experience the flavor of your cannabis a bit more intimately, why not try a nice cup of tea?
In today’s article we’ll be looking at the concept of making weed stem tea; how to make it, what sort of material to use (don’t just use raw stems!), and what some of the potential benefits might be. Let’s dive in.
What is Weed Tea?
Much like other forms of tea and tea-like beverages, cannabis tea revolves around the concept of taking plant material and steeping it in hot water until the various flavoring compounds and nutrients have seeped away into the beverage.
Many teas (and tea-like beverages, such as turmeric tea or chai tea) may also impart health benefits such as boosts to the immune system, or aid in fighting various forms of inflammation; in this, weed tea is little different, and is often a method chosen by medical cannabis patients fighting nausea or chronic pain that can make other dosage forms difficult to take.
Making cannabis stem tea is a relatively simple idea: Steep your leftover stems in hot water over time, and the flavinoids and aromatic compounds will leach out into the drink, carrying with them cannabinoids of all stripes and sizes.
Importantly: Whatever cannabinoids are present in the plant matter will be carried out into the end cup of tea… and that is where our first pressure point lies.
THC and CBD vs. THCA and CBDA
Though we go into this topic in greater detail in our article “How to Decarb Your Weed” the interaction between temperature and cannabinoids is an important one to delve into considering our subject matter.
When we picture the cannabis plant we typically envision the traditional seven-pointed leaf and big, greenish marijuana buds. If it’s a plant that’s been treated well and grown in good conditions, odds are you’ll see crystalline, hair-like fibers all over the plant itself, substances known as “trichomes”.
These sparkling trichomes are what most people consider as carrying the highest percentage of cannabinoids. And they’d be right, except most also believe that these trichomes are carrying THC and CBD, which is not the case at all.
Where THC & CBD Originate
Though THC (specifically “delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol”) and CBD (AKA “cannabiidiol”) can be found in small amounts in the cannabis, most of a given plant’s cannabinoid content will consist of THCA and CBDA, or “tetrahydrocannabinolic acid” and “cannabidiolic acid”. While there is research showing that each may have their own unique benefits in relation to human health, anyone expecting to intake THCA and feel high is in for a swath of disappointment.
Temperature + Time Makes The Difference
When THCA is heated (same as with CBDA) the extra carbolic acid chain is removed from the molecule, turning it into the familiar THC with its psychedelic components fully prepared to be experienced. Of course, too much heat and other parts of the THC chain will begin to disappear, ultimately ruining the molecule (and its benefits) entirely.
What this boils down to is while eating raw cannabis (or making cannabis stem tea from the same) may have some benefits, getting high isn’t one of them by natural design.
To turn THCA into THC requires a function of temperature over a period of time – Putting the plant matter at a specific temperature and letting it essentially “cook” for a defined stretch of time without letting it get too hot or stay in the heat for too long. This is the decarbing or “decarboxylation” process we mentioned toward the start of this section.
So, back to our first pressure point. Applying these principles to making cannabis stem tea means that if we dump raw weed stems into a cup of hot water, what we’ll end up with is a cup of cannabinoid-laden weed tea that lacks any psychoactive components. Not an undesirable result for some, but for most we’re willing to make the assumption you’re aiming to have a cup of tea with a bit more “kick” to it.
Ultimately, if you’re going to try to make cannabis tea from your leftover marijuana stems, those stems will need to be decarboxylated first.
What About The Boiling Water?
Here’s where a second question usually arises: “If the water for the tea is boiling hot, shouldn’t that decarb the leftover bud stems as they steep?” And while that is a sound train of logic, the equation we mentioned earlier holds true here: Decarbing is a process of maintaining temperature over time.
Your cup of cannabis stem tea, steeping on the counter, isn’t going to hold a high enough temperature long enough to properly decarb your marijuana. Ultimately, if you want to have success at making tea from your weed stems, you’re going to need to put them through a proper decarbing cycle. Thankfully we have a handy guide for exactly that (as linked above).
High There’s Easy Weed Stem Tea Recipe (And Hacks For Maximizing Potency)
Of course, the most simple way to make weed stem tea is the most obvious, and our basic cannabis stem tea recipe is as follows:
- Bring a pot or kettle of water to a gentle boil.
- Combine (decarbed) weed stems with your boiling hot water in a vessel that can contain both, such as a cup or mug.
- Let your tea steep for a minimum of five minutes; longer steeps will add more cannabinoids, but know that the more it soaks the more astringent and “green” your tea will taste.
But something being the easiest way doesn’t make it the most efficient, and particularly when it comes to using less-desirable parts of the cannabis plant (IE: leaves & stems). Here are a few of our top hacks for getting the most out of your weed stem brew.
Hack #1: Don’t Fear The Grind
Think coffee for a minute. If you try to brew the whole coffee bean you’ll… end up with something that’s probably very coffee-like, but definitely not the rich coffee beverage you were likely seeking. Grinding the bean before applying hot water increases overall surface area, allowing more water to come in contact with more of the bean and thus leech out more of the caffeinated goodness lying within.
Weed tea isn’t very different, in that increasing the available surface area will ultimately increase the available cannabinoids for your cup. However, where we differ from coffee beans on this subject is that we will often recommend grinding your plant matter BEFORE going into the decarbing process – Stems and leaves included.
Much like with the coffee, grinding increases the total surface area of your plant matter, making for a more consistent, even decarbing process (and thus leading to more active cannabinoids). When steeping, this also increases access for non-water-soluble cannabinoids to leach out into your infused tea, making steeping times faster and more reliable.
And though stirring frequently may be tempting (and often recommended by others) this will cause your water to cool more rapidly, reducing the time your leftover stems have to steep.
Hack #2: Filter Or No?
Using a coffee filter or a tea bag to remove the resulting steeped weed stems from your end brew is fairly logical but do you even need to?
Being perfectly honest, munching on straight cannabis plant material is… not always an amazing experience (and one that usually requires a healthy supply of toothpicks on hand). However, once decarbed, any THC-bearing part of the marijuana plant (IE: most of it) can be eaten as-is, and will carry the same effect as an infused cannabis edible.
When steeping, the water you’re using will get some of the cannabinoids out, but it’s unlikely to get all. Water is a weak carrier of cannabinoids, and while it will definitely work it isn’t as effective as, say, a steep in coconut oil or another fatty medium.
A reusable tea bag or strainer can go a long way toward helping you filter out your stem/tea mix, that same tea bag or coffee filter will also absorb desirable cannabinoids, as the oil-like concentrates sticks to the paper, cloth, or metal being used.
Metal strainers are an excellent option, as they can be easily rinsed back into the cup with a splash of boiling water, but some loss may still occur (and please never try to strain with a paper towel; this usually just leads to many lost cannabinoids and a broken paper towel).
Ultimately, the only way to ensure your weed stems are being used to their absolute fullest? Steep with no filter and then break out the spoon when you’re done. Again, maybe not the most amazing experience culinary-speaking, but it will definitely do the job.
Hack #3: A Splash Of Milk
Again, water is a weak carrier of the oily cannabinoids contained within weed, and oils or other fatty substances typically work much better. While the tea is very much the point of this preparation, a fat or oil of some fashion will help add a little dash of extra cannabinoid-leeching power to your brew. Common suggestions include: Whole milk, heavy cream, half-and-half, coconut milk, butter, or even pure coconut oil.
We highly recommend, though, that your butter, milk, or other oily substance be at least room temperature if not melted/scalded prior to being added to your cannabis stem tea; cold butter and milk will just take down the temp of your water, leading to a shorter steep and lower quality tea.
Hack #4: Just Make An Infusion
So look. We’ve written several articles on High There at this point about how to create and consume cannabis brews & beverages at home. And there’s something both immediate and simple about being able to take decarbed plant matter, throw it into a cup of hot water, and get your morning started right. But that doesn’t make it effective, or pleasant, and when it comes right down to it… there’s usually a better way, and that way is called “infusion”.
Though we go into specifics on infusing in other articles available on our site, decarbing and infusing an oil or tincture with cannabis stems is exactly the same as infusing with fresh bud; note, though the amount of stems it takes to get a reasonable amount of cannabinoids might be a bit larger. For a good overview of making your own cannabis infusions, make sure to check out our “How to Make Weed Edibles” recipe for a thorough overview and links to plenty of recipes!
From there, adding your home-made (or store bought) infusion or tincture to a warm cup of water is easy, and likely to offer more reliable dosing than steeping a bunch of random plant bits in a mug. While it may be a bit more work than just tossing your weed stems in some hot water and calling it a day it’s also arguably faster, more reliable, and a metric ton more pleasant than picking cannabis stems out of your teeth.
If you’re looking to maximize the flavor profile of your cannabis infusing will likely help in that regard as well. Our tip? Don’t be afraid to both infuse AND steep the remaining stems for a double dose of both potency and flavor. And speaking of…
Hack #5: Don’t Fear Flavor
Beyond the potential medical benefits (and definite intoxicating effects), cannabis tea can be a great way to get to know the flavor and “essence” of your favorite marijuana strain. We won’t lie: The super “green”, grassy taste of a weed-based drink may not be for everyone, but even those averse to the flavor can mitigate this through use of add-ons.
While plain white sugar can help, we would recommend something with more taste of its own, such as either raw sugar/brown sugar or agave syrup. Likewise a splash of citrus, such as lemon, can do wonders. Or, for the truly adventurous, try combining your cannabis stem tea with a pinch of non-cannabis tea, such as a nice chamomile or Earl Grey.
Though it can be tempting to just add boiling water to cannabis stems and call it a day, we hope our recipe above has given you some insight as to why making stem tea can be a bit more complicated than it seems on the outside. But with a little know-how and some proper technique, making your own tea-like beverage from leftover stems can be a breeze. Happy brewing!