How do we have a better life in winter?
Right now I'm needing some inspiration. It's been quite cold, here, in Auckland, New Zealand. Why, oh why, am I not in Bali or a South Seas place like Rarotonga, right now, enjoying the sun?
Every year, I forget how wintery it can get. How cold. How wet. How damp. How grey. And yet, when I am around mist, even in winter, I feel that I am in a magical place. And when the sun shines, and the air is crisp, that too, is lovely.
Sometimes we, or is it just me? have to look around and appreciate what there is at any time of the year. Especially in winter.
What can I do to have a better life, in winter?
- the above appreciation, perchance? Appreciating nature in her glory, even when it's not hot and sunny.
- I know, I really do know, that if I made hot chai tea from scratch everyday, that would be a small pleasure. The smell alone is exquisite, the taste is culinary divine.
- I could be using my small crockpot, too, to make delicious casseroles. Again, that sense of smell, and the anticipation of yummy food. You can use beans, it doesn't have to be meat. I have a friend who pops something in her crockpot each morning, and at the end of the day, she has a yummy meal awaiting her.
- I have been a bit run-down for a couple of weeks, and I do feel that a brisk walk each day would do wonders, here.
- winter is a great time to cuddle up with a good book. I am a yoga teacher, healer, and clairvoyant, yet I love to read crime novels. I wonder if it's to balance out all that love, peace, and happiness?
- I like to plan and sort out things, in winter. I have written a bit about it here, and it explains a bit about seasonal planning. I find that it takes time to sort things out. Maybe that's just me. But winter is indeed my best time for this. Winter is when we are hunkered down, we are a bit withdrawn. It is a great time to be reflective and sort things out.
- I make my bed warm each night, in winter. A couple of years ago, I finally succumbed to an electric blanket. Most of my life I had suffered bone aches in my legs, all night long, for part of each year. I never put it together that it was because I was cold. (silly moi) I warmly/heat the bed, then turn the blanket off just before I get in. Winter sleep heaven.
How to make chai tea
There are a few teabag chai mixtures that you can already buy, in health food shops and the supermarket, and there are also powders. If you can find an Indian food supply shop, they will have lots of powders to try.
I like to add a tea bag to mine, if I'm being lazy and using either chai bags or powders. And at times, I've also used powdered spices instead. In this case, I might just use cardamon (my favourite spice), or just cinnamon. With, or without, a few slices of ginger, plus gumboot tea.
Another nice mix using powdered spices, is to mix, to taste, basically whatever you have lurking in your pantry: cardamon, cinnamon, ginger, equal amounts of each, even cloves, allspice, or nutmeg, as well, with a dash of vanilla. Yum. You can skip the vanilla and use a dash of ground pepper instead. Steep it a bit in boiling water, with your tea/or teabag, strain.
Add some warm milk: you can do almond milk, soya, cows milk, whatever. But, chai spices need fats for the aromatic compounds to be released, so non fat milk is not the way to go, here.
Chai is usually sweet, and jaggery which is very unrefined sugar, is the correct sweetener, but honey, maple syrup, or just sugar, are fine too.
The very best black tea to use in chai is Assam tea. It is a whole new taste experience.
How to be a chai master
Chai spices are usually ground with a pestle and mortar. You could cheat and use a coffee grinder. Personally, I would just use the whole spices in this instance:
- a couple of cinnamon sticks
- about 6 cardamon pods
- up to 6 black peppercorns (omit this, or just don't use too much, if you don't like it too spicy)
- slices of ginger - you can grate it instead, and again, see what different amounts appeal to you, anywhere from a couple of slices to a sliced hunk
- 6 - 10 cloves
- whole nutmeg- grate it, maybe 1/2 to 1 teaspoon
The thing is, you don't have to use a lot of the mix to make good chai. What some people do is make a brew and leave it on the stove in a cooking pot, all day. And the heating it as needed. If you do this, you might find that leaving tea leaves in that pot makes it very strong with the taste of tea. The other thing with chai, is that there are many variations. Nothing is set in stone, here.
Slowly bring the spices to boil, until a rich colour emerges. You can add a teaspoon or two of black tea, or add it once the aromas of the spices are released. Warm some milk (of your choice). Strain your spice/tea mix, top up with warm milk. Sweeten.
Some people steep the spices, add the tea later, then add the milk, all in the same pot.
Experiment. And enjoy.