How To Make Sumac Tea, Summer Lemonade


In the fall is the time to look for the bright red berries of sumac (Rhus glabra), these leggy shrubs grow in clumps with the red masses of berries at the top. Wild sumac is easily identified in autumn by its bright red compound leaves and cluster of red berries that form in a cone shape. These berries have a fuzzy look and feel.

It’s a common misconception that the red berries are poisonous, not so. There is poisonous sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) in the family, but it isn’t closely enough related to really get it confused. Poisonous sumac has white berries and the sumacs in the Rhus genus have red cones of fruit.

Sumac Seeds Are A Spice

Besides using the fruit for tea, the berries also give us a spice, derived from the seed inside each drupe which is dried and ground into a red powder that looks like paprika. I didn’t know the seeds are a spice. This is a pleasant surprise for me.

A drupe is the individual fruit similar in appearance to a blackberry. This spice has been used for thousands of years in the Middle East and Near East, as well as North Africa. It makes an attractive topping on foods such as hummus and deviled eggs with a mild spicy flavor.

Numerous Health Benefits

Sumac is rich in antioxidants, they protect your cells from damage and reduce oxidative stress within your body. Antioxidants reduce inflammation and help prevent inflammatory illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer.

The tea also contains tannins, that have astringent properties and is beneficial for treating diarrhea, dysentery, sore throats, infections, asthma and cold sores.

There’s some research that suggests sumac may be an effective for managing blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. The people who took the supplement for 3 months saw improved blood sugar levels.

What Is Sumac Tea?

Sumac tea also known as sumac lemonade, is high in vitamin C and cools the body on hot days because its high in tannic acid making it very astringent. Many herbal teas are diuretics, improving kidney function and ridding the body of toxins. The berries have a sour lemony taste.

When you pick the berries they should be red and hairy when ripe not having rained for a week. The rain can wash out the flavor and color. Before picking the berries, taste one to make sure they’re ripe, it should have a tangy lemony taste. The cones store well in a paper shopping bag in a cool place for months and should yield good tea until springtime.

Homemade Sumac Tea


  • 3 bunches of fresh sumac berries
  • Cold water
  • Pitcher or large container


  • Rub the berries between your hands, lightly bruising them as you drop them into a glass or stainless steel container.
  • Cover with cold water and allow to sit for12 hours minimum, overnight is preferred. You can put the water outdoors on a sunny day similar to making sun tea.
  • When the tea is ready, strain it through a very fine sieve or several layers of cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Be sure to remove any hairs or solids that may irritate digestion.
  • Serve and enjoy!
  • Store your tea in the fridge, it will last for 3 days.

Sumac tea is a delightful and refreshing drink on hot days and during the winter months. The berries are picked in autumn here in the northeast and store very well in paper bags in a cool dry place for many months. You can enjoy this healthy tea well into the winter months.


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