My friend complained about morning sickness due to her pregnancy recently. That gave me an idea. I taste-tested combinations of nausea and gas-fighting spices (plus just plain delicious spices) to create a tea with complex flavor, tickling warmth, and stomach-soothing effects. It’s probably not accurate to call this a chai tea—I drew on Korean ginger tea and non-Indian spices too—but it tastes like a powerful chai that heats you to your core, unlike those watery concoctions that you often get at coffee shops. The only ingredient left in the air was the tea itself. I called my friend to check if she wanted tea leaves. She declined, saying that she wanted to avoid caffeine during the pregnancy.
Then she dropped the bomb. “I’m feeling fine now.”
“What? But I’m making you tea!”
“I don’t have nausea anymore.”
“None at all?”
“Not even a little?”
“Oh. Well…maybe we’ll get lucky and you’ll feel sick again later.”
My friendship skills could use some work. But hey, at least the tea’s good. I sent her six packets of tea and other congratulatory gifts, including a jar of precious Asian pear jelly with Tahitian vanilla bean (friendship requires sacrifice), and a Matisse card filled with congratulations in my chicken scratch penmanship. Thank God the Internet doesn’t require me to handwrite this blog or you wouldn’t be reading Bon Appegeek, you’d be reading Dom Happegook, which is a completely different kind of blog and way more interesting.
So here it is, a tea for nausea, upset stomach, post-legume-intake “issues,” or just plain enjoying for the sake of it. Advice on making this into a gift follows the recipe. Yields 1 mug of tea, about 1 1/2 cups.
SPICE TEA FOR EXPECTANT FRIENDS WHO MAY OR MAY NOT BE NAUSEATED, OR FOR YOU. I’M SORRY ABOUT THE REDUNDANCY IN THIS RECIPE TITLE IF YOU ARE MAKING THIS FOR YOU AND ALSO HAPPEN TO BE AN EXPECTANT FRIEND WHO MAY OR MAY NOT BE NAUSEATED.
Ingredients (all optional & flexible):
· 4 cloves
· 3 green cardamom pods
· 2-6 white peppercorns (hot!)
· 2 allspice berries
· 1-2 “petals” star anise
· 1/4 tsp cassia bits
OR a piece of cinnamon stick
· 1/4 scant teaspoon cracked anise
· 1/4 scant teaspoon fennel
· 1-2 teaspoons loose black tea leaves
· 1/8-inch slice fresh ginger
OR chunk of candied ginger
· 1 tablespoon sugar or honey, or to taste
· 2-4 tablespoons milk or cream
1) Grind all spices except ginger in a grinder until somewhat fine, about 10 seconds. (You can leave the spices whole or bruise them, but the tea’s intensity drops sharply.) Don’t worry if large pieces of cardamom pod remain. Pour the spices and the tea leaves into a teabag such as T-Sac unbleached paper filters size 1 or 2. (Or use a very fine sieve to strain the spices from the tea later.) Fold the teabag down twice and staple or tie it shut.
2) Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a very small pot. Use less water if you’d like to add extra milk or cream, more water if you’re using a wide pot because the water will evaporate faster. Ultimately you want to end up with about 1 1/2 cups of liquid, so keep an eye on the water level and add some if necessary. Add the teabag plus the ginger.
3) Boil gently for 10-15 minutes, occasionally pressing the teabag lightly to release flavors.
4) Remove teabag. Add the milk or cream and heat the tea until it’s as hot as you’d like. Pour tea into a mug and add sugar or honey to taste. Ginger can be eaten or discarded.
To give tea as a gift:
1) A tablespoon of dry skim milk can be added to the teabag if your friend doesn’t often keep milk on hand, as mine doesn’t. Staple the teabag twice because the milk tends to foam up. You will need a size 2 bag if you also add tea leaves.
2) For multiple teabags it would be faster to do all the spices in one large batch, but the proportions in each bag may be off. I prefer to make one bag at a time.
3) Wrap the teabags in an airtight bag. Wrap candied ginger in a separate airtight bag to keep its moisture from affecting the spices. Include brewing instructions. Make a note to your friend that ground spices lose their potency quickly, so bottoms up!
With all due pain,