Know Your Ingredients: Mugwort  

Bright, herbaceous, and widely sought-after for its healing properties, mugwort is leaving a unique mark on the coffee world. 

BY EMILY JOY MENESES
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE

As an avid coffeehouse goer, I’ve come across my fair share of unique ingredients at cafés—ingredients like persimmon, rice, and mushrooms. Still, I was surprised when I saw mugwort gracing the menu of a coffeehouse down the street from me. Aromatic, grassy, and refreshing, mugwort makes a zesty addition to beverages and food dishes alike. In this installment of “Know Your Ingredients,“ we’re exploring where the plant comes from and how it’s making itself known in the coffee world.

Growing Mugwort

Mugwort, or Artemisia vulgaris, is an herbaceous plant with a rich history of use throughout many cultures. This perennial herb is native to Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa, and is widely cultivated in various regions around the world. Mugwort is characterized by its aromatic leaves, which have a unique fragrance similar to that of sage or camphor.

Mugwort is part of the Artemisia genus, which also includes wormwood and sagebrush. Photo by J. Henning via Pixabay.

When growing mugwort, it’s best to start with seeds or cuttings in well-drained soil with moderate fertility. The mugwort plant thrives in full sun or partial shade and requires regular watering. As it grows, it forms dense clusters of leaves with a silver-gray hue, and small reddish or pale yellow flowers bloom from the plant’s short, reddish-purplish stems. Harvesting typically happens during the late summer and early autumn, when the plant reaches peak potency. The leaves, stems, and flowering tops are all collected, then used fresh or dried.

Mugwort is grown throughout the world for its perceived medicinal and spiritual purposes, but also finds a home in the coffee world. Photo by Kristupas Kemeža via Pexels.

Healing Benefits

For centuries, mugwort has been sought out for its health benefits. The plant is revered for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties, and is often used to alleviate digestive issues and promote relaxation and deeper sleep. In traditional Chinese medicine, mugwort is incorporated into moxibustion, a form of therapy where its leaves are burned close to the skin’s surface, near specific acupuncture points, to promote circulation throughout the body.

Spiritual Lore

Beyond its medicinal uses, mugwort also holds deep spiritual significance in a variety of cultures. Throughout the world, the herb is considered sacred, believed to bring protection and purification. It’s also believed to enhance intuition, aid dream work, and even support divination. 

A mugwort latte, mugwort mochi, and persimmon mochi at Coin de Rue, a bakery and café in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. Photo by Emily Joy Meneses.

Mugwort in the Food Industry

In addition to its medicinal and spiritual uses, mugwort has gained attention in the culinary world, with its leaves adding an earthy and grassy flavor to meat, soups, stews, and more. Check out this beautiful mugwort soup recipe! 

Mugwort in the Coffee World 

Nestled in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, Coin de Rue Bakery and Café is a modern Korean fusion bakery with unique café drinks like black sesame lattes and dalgona coffee. The bakery also has its own line of coffee, with beans sourced from Colombia, Ethiopia, and elsewhere. More notably, Coin de Rue also offers a mugwort latte, as well as mugwort mochi. Fresh and grassy, the herb brings a revitalizing twist on the typical café experience.

Coin de Rue’s selection of coffees. Photo courtesy of Coin de Rue.

With its distinct herbal essence and therapeutic properties, mugwort forms a natural partnership with the rich and complex flavors of coffee. As this ancient herb continues to make its way into the coffee world, it offers a delightful sip that bridges tradition and innovation.  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emily Joy Meneses (she/they) is a writer and musician based in Los Angeles. Her hobbies include foraging, cortados, vintage synths, and connecting with her Filipino roots through music, art, food, and beverage.

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