There is a nip in the air. Mornings and nights are getting colder. Sweaters, jackets, and hoodies are out of the closet. Winter is here and so is the tea!
Anytime is tea time in India, especially in winters. Steam swirls from that hot cuppa to fill us with warmth and hope.
Strangely, despite its popularity, the history of tea or chai is recent. In 1835, the British set up tea plantations in Assam. At that time, the expensive tea was mostly for export purposes. It was later when vendors started using milk sugar and spices to add flavour to their brews to make it cheaper it gained popularity.
Many Indian families have a recipe for chai masala. Mostly it is a blend of dry roasted and finely ground spices added to the regular chai. Boiling fresh ginger and tulsi leaves also makes a great tea. Lemongrass or 'Hare chai ki patti' (Cymbopogon citratus) is also added to the tea with tulsi and ginger in many parts of India. For sore throat adding a pinch of salt to the regular tea is a popular home remedy.
Prerna Kumar, the founder of Chaiveda, says that there is no chai as we know today, in Ayurveda, but we have infusions of spices and herbs with a sweetener (mostly honey or jaggery). These herbal teas are quite common in India.
Food greatly impacts health; therefore, knowing the nature of food before consuming is crucial. According to Ayurveda, food is classified into hot and cold depending on the effect it has on our bodies.
A blend of spices may benefit one person but can cause discomfort for another. Ayurveda never generalises remedies and always prescribes according to an individual’s constitution (prakruti).
Ayurvedic beverage for winters is Kashayam or Kashaya. It soothes sore throat and colds. The basic recipe involves boiling mint, coriander, black pepper and ginger in water. After boiling the drink is strained and mixed with milk and jaggery powder. This drink is recommended for pitta dosha.
A blend of cloves, cinnamon, liquorice, ginger, cardamom and black pepper is beneficial for Kapha dosha while fennel, cloves, ginger, Cinnamon and Liquorice for Vata.
The effect of any food also depends on the time of consumption.
Cinnamon enhances metabolism and so it is good to have it in the morning after exercise. In the afternoon, opt for blend of ginger, lime and fennel seeds to enhance appetite. If you want to curb your hunger pangs, try having ginger and lime tea. For the evening, a rose tea blend will reduce the craving for junk food. A chamomile or tulsi tea is good before bed as both these ingredients induce sleep.
A few teas blends are suitable to all doshas, and can be consumed in any season, explains Prerna. Tulsi is tridoshic that is suitable for all the three doshas and can be consumed in any season as it warms, cools or balances as required to the prakriti of the person and the season, she adds.
Benefits of Tea
Ayurveda emphasises the benefits of drinking hot water to remove the toxins and waste products from the body. When this hot water is infused with herbs and spices, it provides energy and helps to move the prana and enhances digestion.
- Tea should never be consumed on an empty stomach.
- Children before the age of five should never be given tea made with tea leaves.
- Ayurvedic infusions should also be administered only after consulting an Ayurvedic physician.
- Fennel and turmeric can be blended with milk. Mint needs to be blended in water.
- Turmeric tea, the recent craze, can cause serious issues if you have it every day. It should never be consumed in the summers.
Indian food is rooted in tradition. In most homes, fresh meals are cooked with the seasonal produce which nourishes and heals. “Observe what your grandparents eat, they know what, when and how much to consume and you can never go wrong”, shares Prerna. This wisdom has been handed over from generation to generation.
Here Is a Traditional Masala Tea Recipe:
- 2 tbsp fennel seeds
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp peppercorns
- 2 tsp dry ginger powder
- 1/2 tsp cloves
Dry roast all ingredients except for ginger powder. Add ginger powder. Store in an airtight container. Add ½ tsp of this powder to your regular tea and consume. You can boil this powder in water, add some jaggery powder and have it without milk and tea leaves. This boosts immunity and prevents seasonal allergies
Instead of looking for exotic and expensive tea blends research and judiciously experiment with regional and seasonal produce. Going back to our roots and exploring ancient food traditions is a sustainable solution to protect life and the planet.
(Nupur Roopa is a freelance writer and a life coach for mothers. She writes articles on environment, food, history, parenting, and travel.)