This past October, after a long, dreamy summer, I had to close the balcony doors at night for a week. Alpaca sweaters draped over chairs for my immediate convenience. Walking barefoot gave way to wool clogs, and even socks in the evening. The white and blue morning glories died on the vine after our first snow fall, in early October. My balcony lies sparse of summer’s green forest – only a pot of hardy red chard, two heads of butter lettuce, some lettuce shoots, a half-hearted nasturtium and a pot of sweet alyssum with a diminutive yellow nasturtium remain.
Inside, I’m sheltering for the winter the still-blooming vermilion geranium, two flowering begonias, the stalwart rosemary, the newcomer hydrangea, looking unsure of its future, and the Purple Velvet Flower.
Feet get cold. Need to warm up. To the stove to heat water in the kettle for some chai. Its warming spices of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and ginger hit the spot – sweet even without honey, nourishing, satisfying, delicious.
My favorite store-bought chai is our local family-made Hanuman Chai, all organic ingredients compiled with Ayurvedic wisdom for each season, Invigorating Spring, Cooling Summer, Energizing Fall and Warming Winter. The family’s cherished recipe has been handed down for generations, as many Indian family chai recipes are. In case it’s an unfamiliar term, Ayurveda is the ancient Indian body of knowledge and wisdom that guides one toward balance of mind and body through diet and lifestyle. Hanuman Chai comes as ready-made tea bags or a loose spice blend with or without the Assam tea. It takes a couple of steps to make, but you are rewarded with a delightful cup of tea.
However, if you’d like to engage in a heavenly tea-making ritual of your own that nurtures your soul and your senses, try this Ayurvedic recipe from “Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing,” by Usha Lad and Dr. Vasant Lad.
Yield 4 servings
Chai means tea in Hindi. Adjust the spices and milk to your liking. Simmering a star anise pod adds another layer of flavor.
- 3 cups water
- 4 cloves
- 2 pinches ground nutmeg
- 2 pinches ground cinnamon
- 2 pinches ground cardamom
- 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon black tea (delicious without the black tea; or try rooibos, dandelion root or lemon grass)
- 1 cup milk of your choice (I use full fat coconut milk with no additives)
- 2 teaspoons of sweetener of your choice (honey is mine, but I often don’t add it)
Bring the water and spices to a boil, then remove from heat.
Add tea if using and steep for 3-4 minutes.
Add the milk and sweetener to taste.
Strain into cups.
You may vary the amounts of milk and sweetener according to your taste. The cardamom helps to neutralize the effects of the caffeine, a nice added benefit. Also, you can steep as long as you wish.