Āyurvedic Winter Tea

Making and drinking tea are two of my favourite pastimes. All year round I sip on my herbal infusions, adapting them each time to suit my current state. During the winter (if you live somewhere cold), tea is essential for keeping happy and healthy and warm (most importantly). With the holiday season upon us, I am now producing tea in bulk to satisfy the varied characters who have stomped their way home (through the snow in my particular case) for some family time. I have picked 6 of my current favourite recipes to share with you this season.

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These teas are āyurvedic blends, meaning that their aim is to maintain/restore health, support the body through the colder, darker months, and to help balance out any dosic imbalances that may be occurring. *Even if you are fortunate enough to live in warmer climes, the holidays have been known to get pretty overwhelming, so a balancing tea break might be exactly what you need! Creating ritual around tea drinking can become a form of meditation. Take some quiet time out of your day to sit with your brew and decompress – check back in with yourself and recognise the areas that need attention.

The basic āyurvedic formula is that ‘like increases like’, and therefore opposites make balance. So, to balance out the cold, dry, sharp, roughness of winter, these teas contain ingredients with warm, liquid, gentle and soothing properties.

First, let me introduce…

Your new best friends:

CINNAMONcinnamon3types550

Gunas (qualities): Laghu (light), tīksna (sharp), rūksa (dry)

Rasa (taste): Katu (pungent), tikta (bitter), madhura (sweet)

Effect on dosha: decreases kapha and vāta; increases pitta

The warm spiciness of cinnamon is synonymous with winter time in my house. Around this time of the year, cinnamon finds its way into most things that I consume – sweet or savory.

Its’ anti-inflammatory and blood thinning qualities make cinnamon a great spice for lowering blood sugar and aiding circulation. Recent research has also demonstrated cinnamons ability to stimulate brain functioning capacity, increasing intelligent awareness.

TURMERIC

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Gunas: laghu (light), rūksa (dry)

Rasa: Kasāya (astringent), tikta (bitter), katu (pungent)

Effect on dosha: decreases vāta, pitta, and kapha

The king of āyurvedic cooking, turmeric is a magical rhizome that will assert its dominance over the spice world by turning everything within a mile radius golden. You have been warned. Turmeric is a very powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory, great for anyone who suffers from swelling, joint pain or arthritis. Not only does turmeric protect the body from the repercussions of stress, but it detoxifies the blood and therefore is an excellent preventative spice and can also be used as a natural painkiller.

However, it is important to be aware that curcumin, the active pigment element of the rhizome, is not easily absorbed on its own. It is lipid soluble but not water soluble, meaning that if you are cooking with turmeric, it is best to heat it in an oil before adding to the food. Another alternative is to increase absorption by consuming black pepper with the turmeric.

GINGERginger-root-benefits

Gunas: rūksa (dry/fresh), laghu (light), tīksna (sharp), guru (heavy)

Rasa: dry, pungent, fresh

Effect on dosha: decreases vāta and kapha; does not aggravate pitta

Well… maybe ginger is actually king. Life would be a very sad experience without ginger. This spicy, heating rhizome is welcome anywhere in my kitchen. Often used as a digestive aid, ginger speeds up the metabolism by stimulating the digestive enzymes. Ginger is also an antispasmodic and very settling for the stomach so is a go to for nausea, pain, tension, menstrual cramps, you name it. Ginger supports the immune system as a rich source of anti-oxidants, it has anti-viral properties and boosts internal body heat and circulation.

Recipes:

*a note on all of the recipes*

Generally, I change up the measurements of my recipes depending on how I feel at any given time. So just know that these recipes are general guidelines and you can alter them accordingly. For example, some days I want a strong, gingery tea, and other days I’m happy with a lighter drink. Obviously you can make your tea stronger by adding less water/more ingredients or make it weaker using more water. The longer you leave the tea to steep, the stronger it will become. If you are drinking tea for medicinal purposes, it is best to brew the tea very strong, but for everyday drinking this might be too much. Have an experiment and make each recipe your own – you can add things or leave them out according to taste.

Fennel Spiced tea

This is my go to daily tea blend. Fennel, cumin and caraway are great for absorbing an excess acidity in the stomach and are balancing for all dosas. Cloves decrease excess kapha and pitta. Despite their pungent taste, cloves are cooling in nature and contain natural pain reducing properties. Cinnamon and ginger are both spicy and warming, so are perfect for tackling winter and assisting the immune system through the cold weather. Both spices are very supportive to the digestive system, are anti-inflammatory, and support blood circulation.

One small pot (approx. 4 cups)

¾ tbsp. Fennel seeds

1 tsp. Caraway seeds

1 tsp. Cumin seeds

A few slices of Fresh Ginger

1 tsp. Cloves

1 Cinnamon Stick

Hot water

Method: Place all ingredients in a pot and cover with recently boiled water. Allow to steep for at least 5minutes the strain and drink!

Homemade Herbal Chai mix – *Caffeine free

When I stopped drinking caffeine I was plunged into a state of depression about not being able to drink my favourite chai blend. After quite a long mourning period I decided to pull myself together and find a solution. Here is my solution! This recipe is my favourite spicy, warming, digestive chai blend that I drink all year round to keep my mind and stomach happy and healthy. It is especially great for combating seasonal winter chills and bad weather blues. Adding cacao nibs to the mix introduces an amazing chocolaty richness, and the orange rind adds a deep aromatic warmth that mixes perfectly with the sharp spice of the ginger and black pepper.

One small pot (approx. 4 cups)

2 Cinnamon sticks or 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tbsp. Fennel seeds

A few slices of Fresh Ginger (extra for extra heat)

1 tsp. Star Anise

5 Cardamom pods

¾ tbsp. Cloves

1 tsp. Peppercorns

1 tsp. Cacao nibs (optional)

A few slices of dried Orange rind (optional)

Hot water

Method: Place all ingredients in a pot and cover with recently boiled water. Allow to steep for at least 5minutes the strain and drink!

Lavender and Eucalyptus Calming Blendfullsizerender-2-copy

My mum calls this one “spa tea” because there is something so spoiling and comforting about its fragrance. It is great for relaxation – I often make it in the evening to wind down from the day. Lavender, peppermint and eucalyptus have anti-anxiety, stress reducing qualities. They are cooling and calming on the nervous system, as well as supporting the immune system and detoxifying. Cardamom and fennel contribute to this freshness and both have tridosic balancing qualities. They are excellent for soothing the mind and body, and promoting a greater sense of clarity. A comforting warmth is provided by the cinnamon, ginger, and peppercorns, which support digestive fire and increase circulation.

One small pot (approx. 4 cups)

1 Tbsp. Dried lavender flowers

1 Cinnamon stick

4 Cardamom pods

¾ Tbsp. Fennel seeds

½ Tbsp. Peppermint leaves (dried or fresh depending on season)

Fresh ginger (as much or as little as you desire)

½ Tbsp. Eucalyptus leaves

6 Black peppercorns

Hot water

Method: Place all ingredients in a pot and cover with recently boiled water. Allow to steep for at least 5minutes the strain and drink!

Nettle Lemon Balm Tea

I began drinking nettle tea for its medicinal purposes long ago. Nettle tea supports urinary health; decreases joint pain and arthiritis; it is a natural anti-inflammatory and anti-histimine so is great for people who suffer from allergies and hay fever; reduces eczema and asthma. When combined with the lemon balm, this tea is very calming for the mind, but encourages alertness and heightens memory capacity. Lemon balm is a powerful anti-oxidant and provides a lot of support to the liver for detoxification.

One small pot (approx. 4 cups)fullsizerender-3

1 tbsp. nettle leaf

1tbsp. lemon balm leaf

¼ tbsp. peppermint leaf

Hot water

Method: Place all ingredients in a pot and cover with recently boiled water. Allow to steep for at least 5minutes the strain and drink!

Spiced milk

This takes me back to an imaginary childhood where I would drink spiced milk by the fire before bed. Great for digestion and very soothing, spiced milk is a tasty way to get some spicy nourishment. I often will drink this an hour or so before bed during the winter. Tip* – if you are planning to drink this before bed, don’t overdo it on the ginger, as it can be over stimulating.

(4 Cups)

4 cups Nut milk/whole un-homogenised cow’s milk

6 Cardamom pods

2 Cinnamon sticks or 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

A few slices of fresh ginger

Dash of Vanilla essence (optional)

Method: Gently heat the milk in a pan and add the other ingredients. Warm through without coming to a total boil for 5-10mins. Strain the milk through a sieve and drink whilst warm.

Turmeric Latte/ Golden Milk

Sometimes tea just isn’t going to cut it and you need something frothy and milky and delicious to get you through the day. This is a more filling drink, good for abating any angry tummy rumblings. Unlike traditional lattes containing caffeine, this golden milk is settling for the stomach due to all of its anti-inflammatory and digestive aiding properties. This can be drunk at any point during the day, however I usually rustle one up in the afternoon to keep me charged up in during the after lunch slump.

(2 Cups)

2 cups Homemade almond milk

1 teaspoon Turmeric (powder or grated fresh)

½ teaspoon of ground or fresh Ginger

½ teaspoon ground Cinnamon or 1 Cinnamon stick (optional)

3 Cardamom pods (optional)

Pinch of black pepper

Tiny splash of Vanilla essence (optional)

1 teaspoon of Honey/Maple syrup/Coconut syrup

Grated Nutmeg

Method: warm the almond milk, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, vanilla, and ghee/coconut oil together in a pan for 5 minutes without allowing the milk to aggressively boil. If you are using ground spices, you may need to use a whisk to remove any lumps. Strain the milk through a sieve. Mix in your sweetener. For the final fancy touch, grate some nutmeg over the top.

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Vāgbhata’s advice on creating ‘A Winter Idyll’

Vāgbhata is one of the most influential classical writers on Āyurveda. Whether or not he is really one person or a collection of authors is debated, however, his contribution to classical āyurvedic literature is profound. He is best known for authoring the Ashtānga Hridaya Samhitā (Heart of Medicine), presumed to have been written around 500AD. As you will gather from the excerpt below, classical āyurveda does not necessarily conform to religious dietary restrictions as one may expect. While I personally will be sticking to my ginger-water and herb tea, I always find it interesting and amusing to read from the classics, and who knows, maybe Vāgbhata’s winter idyll is just what you are looking for in your life right now!

Together with friends, one should then drink hearty, cheery drinks like wood-apple liqueur, plum brandy, molasses rum, wine, and mead, blended with mango juice. These drinks should be tasted and then served up by one’s beloved, perfumed by contact with her lips, signed by her lotus eyes. One may also drink ginger-water, herb tea, honey-water, or nutgrass-water.

Be happy, and pass the time till the middle of the day with charming stories and friends, in a fragrant grove of pretty trees and flowers, fanned by southerly breezes, with flowing streams all about. Here, the sun is out of sight, and might as well not exist. The grove is beautified with jewelled paths, it echoes the cuckoos, and it has good places for lovemaking.

One should avoid sleeping during the day, as well as heavy, cold, oily, sour or sweet foods.

Whatever winter idyll you have envisioned for yourself this season, please enjoy and make sure you take time out for tea!

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