Kratom Tea: Considering the Chemistry
Kratom Tea is Simple
That’s why we love it! Today we’re going to break down kratom tea chemistry. Boil water. Pour it into a thermos with your favorite kratom tea bag. Simple.
But like everything, when examined thoroughly, tea suddenly becomes more mysterious. And to complicate matters further, kratom makes for a different “cup of tea” in a number of crucial ways.
Why Humans Have Made Tea
For a very long time, societies have been steeping plants in hot water to create a beverage that contains the desirable qualities of the particular plant, while leaving out the unpleasant and inedible parts. The desirable extractions are often chosen for either a particular flavor or for a certain physiological reaction.
On a very basic level, a tea is an aqueous extract from a botanical source. Many alkaloids, terpenoids, flavonoids and other naturally occurring desirable compounds are interwoven in the biological matrix of the plant material. The plant material, lignocellulose, that constitutes the majority of a plant’s dried weight is highly fibrous and otherwise undesirable as foodstuff.
The logic behind tea is rooted in the chemical laws of solubility. When brewing tea, solubility increases as temperature and pressure rise. This is an important fact to keep in mind as we later discuss our recommended methods for making kratom tea.
Caffeine is only slightly soluble in water and therefore must take advantage of the increase of solubility that comes with higher temperatures and pressures. This is why hot water is typically used to produce beverages like coffee or tea.
The process gets insoluble alkaloids out of the plant biomatter by increasing the temperature which coaxes the maximum amount of alkaloids into the liquid.
Under high pressure and temperature an espresso can be ready to consume in a little under a minute. A standard drip brew only uses hot water to extract the caffeine and other desirable biomolecules, and thus takes longer to brew than espresso.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, a cold brew takes hours to produce drinkable coffee. This is due to the low temperature of the water as well as the normobaric atmospheric pressure conditions it is produced in.
Mitragynine Solubility: Acids Are Your Friend
Back to kratom tea. The reason why many people use kratom is because it is a caffeine-free, energizing alternative. To benefit most from kratom tea, it helps to understand the solubility coefficient of the alkaloids in kratom leaves.
Mitragynine and 7-OH-mitragynine are often touted as the stars of the kratom story. Because mitragynine is present in much higher quantities than 7-OH-mitragynine, we’ll focus solely on mitragynine in this post.
Room temperature water would do a poor job of dissolving mitragynine from the kratom leaf and into the tea. Mitragynine is considered to be poorly soluble in water and alkaline media, but is more soluble in acids.
Mitragynine, however, is unlike caffeine, and has a slightly lower solubility still. To further increase the effectiveness of our extraction, we recommend adding an acid, like a freshly squeezed citrus fruit, into the tea while steeping. Some favorites are lemon and grapefruit!
Maximizing Your Brew
Another way to increase the effectiveness of the extraction is to make a decoction as opposed to an infusion. We go further into this topic in a past blog, but the takeaway is that we recommend you steep your kratom tea bags in the water at a full boil for about 10 minutes.
The intention of letting your tea bags steep in the boiling water is to increase the solubility of the mitragynine. When the temperature increases, steeping time can decrease, and vice versa. When you make your tea in one of our signature, vacuum-insulated thermoses, the water is slightly cooler than when boiling.
To compensate for this, we simply recommend that you let your tea steep in the thermos for about 20 minutes to ensure the completion of the alkaloidal extraction. And again, don’t forget the acidic fruit juice!
Now, there is a caveat you should be aware of. The longer you decoct your tea, let it steep in your vacuum thermos, the more mitragynine you will get in your tea. But mitragynine is not the only biomolecule found in kratom which is soluble in water.
With time, many of the other constituents of kratom make it into your tea and increase the bitterness. How long you boil is ultimately a matter of taste.
Be Careful When You Store Your Kratom Tea
Mitragynine is acid-labile, meaning that it degrades in the presence of acid, albeit slowly. Therefore, you should not store kratom tea mixed with an acid for longer than a few hours. This is particularly relevant when you are making a batch brew to keep in your refrigerator.
In this case, you should reduce the amount of acid in your drink to help maintain its potency. To compensate for the loss of solubility when omitting an acid, simply steep your tea bags for a few minutes longer.
Without the fruit juice, however, you will be left with a plain kratom tea. Try adding in some sugar, ginger, mint, another herbal tea, (or all of the above!) for an improved taste. Check out our past blogs for a complete list of recipes or download our free recipe book.
When it comes to kratom tea, we think knowledge is both power and bliss. So remember, the next time you make a cup of kratom tea, focus on making your drink slightly acidic with some fruit juice, and maintain a temperature at or close to boiling for 10 to 20 minutes.