By Nadee Bandaranayake, Owner and Chief Spice Lady at Cinnamon Tree Organics
The dog days of summer may still not be over, but it has been cooling down at night and into the mornings. Soon, temperatures will drop and we will be in the middle of pumpkin spice season before we know it. This year, for obvious reasons, has been so weirdly different for everyone, and we could all use a reminder to slow down and pay attention to ourselves.
The following two recipes incorporate the goodness of spices to achieve an equilibrium in the body. Combined with the tantalizing aromas and warming effects of the spices, these two beverages are my go-to’s on cooler mornings (but let’s be honest: I like a steaming beverage in my hands at all hours of the day). It takes less than 10 minutes to prepare each drink and once you discover your own balance of spice, it will be quicker and perhaps you will not need to measure.
There is something soothing about standing over a simmering pot of spiced milk, stirring rhythmically, inhaling the aromas wafting up, that gets me in a state of flow in the mornings. This is the ritual that grounds me and sets my mood for the day.
The spices we use to make the beverages have immense health benefits. Here is a list scientists, doctors, and nutritionists agree on. Further research is being done on each spice.
Black pepper: High in antioxidants, helps reduce inflammation, helps with digestion, helps “activate” the curcumin in turmeric to make it easier to absorb. Pro tip: always add a dash of black pepper wherever you add turmeric.
Ceylon cinnamon: Immune-boosting, very high in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-diabetic.
Clove: Has more than 30 times the antioxidant concentration of blueberries.
Ginger: Improves digestion and helps the body better absorb all nutrients, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving, especially headaches and menstrual cramps.
Green cardamom: Antibacterial, boosts appetite, helps digestion, and relieves stomach pain, nausea, and bloating.
Nutmeg: Reduces pain and inflammation, boosts brain health, supports better sleep, promotes digestion, and improves heart health.
Turmeric: Anti-inflammatory, lowers glucose levels, is a natural pain reliever, has been shown to reduce depression at high doses.
Note on sweetening with honey: Honey is an excellent natural sweetener for any beverage. Local honey produced in your community has immune-boosting powers for allergens in your neighborhood because the bees would have sourced pollen locally. However, heating up honey has the potential to turn it toxic. Add honey after removing any beverage from heat. Pour beverages into mugs, perhaps let them stand for a minute or two, and stir in honey to dissolve.
Golden Milk (Variation: Turmeric Latte)
Time: 10 minutes, including resting time
Good quality turmeric is imperative here. Look for deep orange versions and taste a bit of powder to make sure the turmeric you have does not leave a bitter aftertaste. Pure, fresh turmeric should be bright and floral, with a spicy ginger-ish note.
Ingredients for Golden Milk
For 1 serving
1 ½ cups whole milk or plant-based milk
½ cup water, if desired, for a thinner drink
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
Pinch, ground black pepper
Pinch, ground nutmeg (optional)
1 tsp local honey, or to taste
How to make golden milk
Put all the ingredients except honey into a pot and stir over medium heat, until simmering and steam rises. Do not boil.
Turn off the stove and cover with a lid. Let stand for 5 minutes or longer for spices to infuse.
Strain into a mug and add honey. Stir to dissolve and serve warm.
Tips and variations
Nutmeg is optional but I highly recommend it. It elevates the creaminess and taste.
For turmeric latte, use ½ cup milk and 1 cup brewed coffee or your favorite type of tea, including unsweetened herbal teas. You may have to adjust spices and sweetener depending on the strength of your tea or coffee. (I like stronger teas like English Breakfast or Matcha and adjust oat milk to 1 cup.)
You can make this up to two days in advance and store it in the fridge in an airtight container. Serve over ice for a cool summer afternoon treat, or simmer on the stove to warm up. If you plan to heat before serving, do not add honey when you prepare this in advance. Dissolve honey into the warmed drink after pouring into your favorite mug.
Masala Chai (Chai Tea) from Scratch
Time: 10 minutes, including resting time
Chai is a personal drink that varies from person to person. Once you start making it at home, you will never get another café-made cup again. Don’t be afraid to adjust spice quantities and discover the exact balance you prefer. Brewing time will also vary depending on the type of tea you use and whether you use loose leaf or tea bags. Whatever method you settle with, I believe there is no correct way, because your ritual will be unique to you.
Ingredients for masala chai
For 2 servings
2 cups of water
1 cup whole milk or plant-based milk
2 bags strong black tea, or 2 tbsp loose-leaf tea
6 pods whole green cardamom
1 stick Ceylon cinnamon
1-inch fresh ginger, roughly chopped (or 2 tsp ground ginger)
Handful black peppercorn (about 7-10 seeds)
Pinch ground nutmeg
Sweetener of choice
How I make masala chai at home
Using a mortar and pestle, spice grinder, or the back of a knife, crush the cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon stick, and black peppercorn into large pieces. Do not grind completely.
Add water to a pot with the crushed spices, a pinch of nutmeg, and chopped ginger (peeling is optional). Bring to a rolling boil.
Turn off the heat, add tea bags or loose-leaf tea, cover and let steep for 5 minutes.
Add milk, turn the heat on low and simmer until bubbling around the edges.
Strain into mugs and add sweetener of choice. Enjoy hot.
Note on tea: Strong black tea such as English Breakfast and Orange Pekoe are best for making masala chai. If you like a creamier and stronger cup, in step 4, keep the pot on medium heat, cover, and boil for 10 or more minutes. Don’t walk away – it may boil over.
In a pinch, you can, of course, use a well-mixed chai blend. Cinnamon Tree Organic’s chai is one of our most popular products, made with freshly harvested spices and Ceylon black tea, on a farm up in the hills of central Sri Lanka.
Cinnamon Tree Organics helps savvy home cooks make exceptionally delicious food through fresh and potent spices. We source fresh-harvest spices like Ceylon cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, and more directly from small organic farmers in Sri Lanka.
Do you know the current spice supply chain can take up to five years to bring generic spices to an American grocery shelf? It makes it impossible to trace the source, increases chances of contamination, and creates the necessity to add artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, anti-caking agents, and pesticides. It encourages destructive farming and processing practices like deforestation and irradiation. With as many as 15 middlemen involved, the real farmer at the bottom of the chain gets no fair compensation for their hard work.
Not here. Cinnamon Tree Organics is on a mission to put flavor and value back into America’s spice cabinets while restoring equity and power to small organic farmers. Welcome to a world of incredibly fresh flavors!