ease into the cooler months
Winter has come early this year and along with the time-change, this can be a difficult time to switch quickly from cool brews and iced drinks to warm drinks. Even the thought of a cold drink sends shivers down my spine!
The most common warm drinks are hot tea or coffee, cider. Some prefer alcoholic drinks. However, during the winter months, excessive amounts of caffeine or alcohol can dehydrate the body rather than warm it up and cause dry cracked skin. Excessive caffeine may even contribute to insomnia. Rather than creating a chain reaction of fixes, Ayurveda suggests beginning correctly and including ‘helping foods’ in ones diet.
According to Ayurveda, many spices help ease the body into the colder months by helping digestion, providing warmth from within.
Indian winter brews vary from region to region. These variations occur in its core ingredients (types of black tea, green tea or omission of) and brewing methods. Sweeteners, special flavors and dairy choices (inclusion of, or the omission of them) also vary by region and season.
In a larger, generalized context, some winter brews involve only fresh herbs such as mint or ginger along with tea leaves. Other brews combine tea leaves with fresh herbs like ginger and dried flavors or spices such as saffron, nutmeg or cardamom. Some brews are deliberately herbal and medicinal – meaning, they are concocted to ward off common winter ailments such as the sniffles, arthritic pain, colds and such. They may include fresh leaves from the Malabar Nut tree, licorice stems, fresh ginger root, fresh lemon grass leaves, mint, or whole spices such as black pepper, cinnamon and others. Many medicinal brews often skip the dairy component, because dairy is believed to aggravate common winter ailments.
We’ve been guzzling down warm spiced milk, different versions of spiced cider but particularly, a few different versions of non-caffeinated brews. Range of Indian hot ‘teas’ is quite vast not merely limited to the masala chai, so erroneously dubbed as the chai-tea-latte, which means ‘tea-tea-made-with-milk, tea’. Indian teas include ginger cha, brews using Tulsi leaves and ginger, teas made with a host of different spices, including dried ginger and many more.
One unique yet simple brew is Kahwa – or Kashmiri Green Tea. An all weather drink, this tea combines the flavors of green tea with the fragrant aroma of cardamom, saffron and roses. You will hold the essence of paradise in your hands with this warm, delicate drink.
Kahwa: Kashmiri Green Tea Recipe
Makes: Four servings; 70 calories ea.
Diet: Vegan, Gluten-free
Prep Time: Less than 5 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
4 cups water
4-6 small green cardamom pods
4 tsp unflavored green tea leaves or 4 unflavored green teabags
1 pinch saffron threads
¼ cup raw unsalted slivered almonds
4 tbsp gulkand (rose petal jam), to taste
OR equal amount of honey
Set water to boil and add cardamom pods into pot. When the water begins to boil, add the tea leaves or place the tea bags into this water and turn the heat to a low simmer. Simmer for 1 minute or less and turn off the heat. Depending on the strength of the tea leaves, you may need to steep a little longer. Do not steep for more than 2 minutes. If using tea leaves, strain the mixture into the serving cups. Sprinkle in slivered almonds and saffron threads delicately into each cup. The slivered almonds will sink to the bottom of the cup. Reserve the gulkand or honey on the side with small serving spoons to allow guests to add to their serving themselves. Serve warm before meals.
Note: Here are a few other winter brews included elsewhere on blog: