When I was a kid, tea was a grand event for the girls in my family. Our favorite place was filled with victorian things: pearls and lace, fancy crystal goblets, antique silverware, among other things mauve and shiny. We wore hats, the kind with nets and feathers. Big and small brims, some with flowers. Our sugar came in little cubes, which we stirred into tea poured from individual pots with tiny tarnished silver spoons. We cousins couldn’t withhold our giddiness, when, the waitress presented us with a tower of mini cucumber sandwiches and decorated truffles. Our toothy grins beamed between daintily sipping and using words like “dahhhling”. There was no place else we’d rather be.
As an adult, I often find myself careening through the land of “shoulds”. You know, whatever I’m doing, I really “should” be doing something else, especially if what I’m doing is relaxing or fun. I love anything that pulls me back to the days before I cared about what I “should” be doing, and actually enjoyed what I was doing. Food and drink-wise, something has to be either ridiculously indulgent, ridiculously healthy but just what I’m craving, or ridiculously comforting, in order to distract me enough to fully enjoy the present moment.
In a way, Commonweal’s tea shares some traits with chai, but presents itself in a different way. Chai is the extrovert of spiced teas, with a pepper and ginger bite. He lays everything out on the table, and will tell you everything about him upon nary an invitation. On most days, chai calls to me, especially if it’s loud and spicy. At nighttime, I want comfort. Commonweal’s Healing Tea is chai’s quiet but intriguing introverted cousin. She’s no less complex than chai, but unfolds her complexity slowly. First comes the slight ginger bite, rolling into the spices, and then a bit of almond milk, vanilla, and maple syrup, which seem to wrap around your tongue like a hug.
When I finally made it for a friend one night after dinner, we both melted into the couch, very likely letting out an audible “Ahhh”. Mugs held in both hands close to our faces, we huddled over our respective teas, as if they were little campfires to warm our hands and faces with. We didn’t have any feathered hats, or little silver spoons, but we had time set aside to sip and chat. Teatime was yet again a special event, and thankfully, the “shoulds” were nowhere to be seen.
Commonweal’s Spiced Healing Tea
Adapted from The Cancer Fighting Kitchen By Rebecca Katz
Makes 8 cups
The name “Commonweal” reminds me of something regal, like high tea in Great Britain. Actually, it refers to the Commonweal Cancer Program, a retreat for cancer patients and caregivers. Katz makes this tea for attendees to sip all day long. I like to store any extra tea, sans the maple syrup and almond milk, in mason jars in the refrigerator. Leftovers can be stored for up to two weeks, and heated up with the milk and maple syrup. After steeping the tea, the whole spices can be kept refrigerated and used to make a smaller batch of tea (using 6 cups water, and fresh ginger slices).
- 1/3 cup peeled sliced ginger, 1/4″ thick
- 10 cups water
- 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cardamom pods
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 1/2 cups almond milk (more or less to taste)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 to 3 cups maple syrup
Put the ginger slices and water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the coriander, cardamom, cinnamon sticks, and cloves, and simmer for 20 minutes more. Pour the tea through a fine mesh strainer into another saucepan. Add the almond milk, vanilla extract, and maple syrup to taste.