British Columbia

Licorice mint moss? Whistler woman forages along Sea-to-Sky corridor to create teas and sodas

TeaCrafter, forager, herbalist and Namasthé Tea Company Isabelle Ranger says the B.C.'s mountains are an ocean of tastes and flavours.

Namasthé Tea Company takes the tastes of B.C.'s mountains and serves them up in a cup

Isabelle Ranger joined Sheryl MacKay on CBC's North by Northwest. (CBC)

A Whistler woman is serving up the tastes of the Sea-to-Sky corridor in a cup.

It didn't take long for Isabelle Ranger to realize she wanted to forage the natural herbs that flood some of B.C.'s forests and peaks to make teas.

In fact, she knew it the moment she started flipping through the pages of an encyclopaedia of natural herbs

"I thought, 'I want to know how to mix all of these things,'" she told host Sheryl MacKay on CBC's North by Northwest. "I knew right away that was my path."

Ranger became an instant herb-nerd. She founded Namasthé Tea Company, which uses naturally sourced ingredients from the local woods.

The flavours in Ranger's licorice mint moss tea come from plants that were foraged in forests near Whistler. (Namasthé Tea Company)

Now, she spends a lot of her time hiking through forests, looking for different herbs to flavour her unique brand of beverages, including licorice mint moss tea, and chaga chai.

"What's cool about Whistler is that ... in every direction you can find a forest service road and you're out in the forest; you're in the mountains ... it's very beautiful, [and] there's a lot of variety of things that grow at different elevations."

"There's a lot of wild food out there. There's a lot of trees, plants, roots, barks, mushrooms, berries. There's so many things you can pick," she said.

A little 'soapy'

Once Ranger gathers materials from the wilderness, she begins the process of developing different blends. She says a lot of the flavour depends on the time of year.

For example, when she gathers Douglas fir spring tips, the tastes can range from delicious to downright unpleasant.

"Depending on the time of he year and depending on the tree, they vary quite a lot. Some of them will taste more lime, lemon, grapefruit — or soapy. We always try them before foraging them."

Ranger is also experimenting with creating sodas using the foraged goods. She's currently offering Sassafras Soda and Pemberton Cola

Ranger has began experimenting with creating sodas, including her own Pemberton Cola. (Isabelle Ranger)

She says the learning curve is steep — there's a lot of research and bookkeeping that goes into producing each taste. And while she admits it's a lot of hard work, nothing beats getting back into the bush and looking for different herbs.

"Foraging is the funnest part. It's like a little treasure hunt each time."

With files from CBC's North by Northwest

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Licorice mint moss? Whistler woman forages along Sea-to-Sky to create teas and sodas