Mar 07, 2018

How to Make Head Tea: The Greatest Cold Remedy Known to Man

I live in an area of the country that experiences four traditional seasons. Of those four, my favorites are Spring and Fall. I love everything about these transitional seasons—the mild weather, the changing light, the start of garden season on one end and the height of its bounty at the other. (Even if they do only seem to last for about a week here in eastern North Carolina.)

That is, I love these seasons, but my sinuses do not. I've got horrendous seasonal allergies that flood my head with histamines twice a year, to the point where I really should invest in a giant hypoallergenic vinyl bubble to seal myself off in from April to July. Also, the change of seasons seems to kick the butts of everyone's immune systems, and I always inevitably catch what everyone's passing around.

Are you in the same club? I got something for what ails you, and it goes by the name of Head Tea. Perched on the banks of the Potomac in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, there's the little college town of Shepherdstown, where I got my BFA in Graphic Design a while ago. Downtown, about a block from campus, you'll find the beloved institution known as Lost Dog Coffee. The place looks like an art major sprayed glue all over the walls and scattered boxes full of old projects everywhere. It doesn't really have a menu, per se, with the exception of a small blackboard shoved in a corner with some signature drinks on it, which means virtually everything they serve is an underground drink.

Head Tea is one of the most famous.

Now, this statement hasn't been approved by the FDA, but I'm telling you—every time I've ever had a cold and downed several hot cups of this stuff, I've inevitably felt better. Placebo or just caffeine? Don't know, don't care. It just works.

If you're ever passing through the area, I'd highly recommend checking out Lost Dog and asking for the Head Tea. (If you're lucky, the owner/mad scientist Garth will make it for you.) Lucky for you, though, I worked there for about a year in college, so here's a stripped-down copycat recipe.


Head Tea

(Makes one 16 oz. cup)


  • Yerba Mate — about 3 spoonfuls
  • Berry or hibiscus tea (3 teabags)
  •  Orange juice
  • Honey
  • Boiling water

Equipment needed:

  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Mesh filter
  • Spoon
  • Kettle
  • Microwave
  • Cup


1. Add yerba mate and teabags to liquid measuring cup.

2. Boil water and fill to about 12 oz. line. Let steep for about 8 minutes. (You'll want it to be strong.)

3. Meanwhile, add generous amount of honey to your cup. (I squeeze the honey bear for about 5 seconds directly into the cup. It's probably about 2 Tbsp.)

4. Add about 3 Tbsp. orange juice to the honey in your cup. Microwave for 1 minute and stir to combine.*

5. Once the tea is done steeping, strain it into the cup using the mesh filter. Stir to combine.

6. Add honey and orange juice to taste. It's best when hot, so give it another zap in the microwave if needed.

Bonus: grate some fresh ginger into the measuring cup when you steep your tea for an added kick.


*Don't worry about losing vitamin C to heat. While heat does reduce some of the vitamin, it's not hot enough to take away a substantial amount.



What's your favorite cold remedy? Comment below!


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JoelSelby on Mar 13, 2018:

@R — If you're that concerned, I'd suggest you wear a hazmat suit every time you pump your gas! (Just kidding.)

But in all seriousness, I did look into it and from what I can tell, the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (AKA carcinogens) found in mate are also present in all kinds of foods, especially grilled meats. The studies showed that tobacco and alcohol use combined with higher consumption of yerba mate increased the chances of throat and mouth cancers. Additionally, there were other factors that could play into the carcinogen levels—water quality and other environmental pollution, for example.

My take is that unless you're a smoker or a heavy drinker and/or you drink lots of mate every single day, you're going to be OK.

And at the end of the day, if you're super concerned, just don't drink the mate and suck it up like you said!

JoelSelby on Mar 13, 2018:

@bruno Oh, awesome! I had a foreign exchange student from northern Argentina live with me in high school, so that was my first exposure to mate. Give it a whirl and let me know how it goes!

R on Mar 12, 2018:

You might want to put forth a warning mentioning the association between mouth and throat cancers and yerba mate hot tea. Just a suggestion. I'd rather suck it up for a couple weeks than risk consuming a carcinogen.

bruno on Mar 09, 2018:

Wow. This looks awesome, and I'm trying to shake a cold, so I'm totally going to try it. My parents are from Argentina, so I grew up with mate around, but never heard of this recipe. Thanks for sharing!