Home-Made Nettle Chai
There is nothing like a cup of home-made chai to start your day. Pre-made, packaged chai is big business. You can buy it in aseptic packages where you just add milk or even instant powder where you just add water. These concoctions of industry are almost always highly sweetened and caffeinated. The powdered ones contain nonfat dry milk (a source of dangerous oxidized cholesterol) and numerous sweeteners.
Fortunately, home-made chai is easy to make and can become a therapeutic addition to your morning routine. I offer the following recipe and encourage you to experiment with your own favorite herbs and spices.
Why nettles? Nettles are a rich source of vitamins and minerals. Nettles are also plentiful on my parents’ farm. They grow in low, moist areas and are a tremendous source of nutrition. If you are harvesting your own, be sure to wear gloves. The stinging nettle will defend itself against your attempts at harvesting. According to my husband, they are less likely to sting you if you approach with great respect and ask permission to harvest them. I admit that I have yet to put his idea to the test. It is easy enough to wear some gardening gloves.
Nettles are best harvested in the morning on a dry day. For best results, harvest young plants that haven’t begun to flower. My favorite way to dry them is to put the tops in a paper bag with the stems hanging out. Tie a piece of twine around the open top of the bag and the protruding stems. Poke several holes in the bag or cut off the bottom so that air can circulate. Hang in a dry place for about a week. When the herbs are dry, just use your fingers to break the dry leaves off the course stems. Then remove and discard (compost) the stems. You can use your bare hands because the stinging abilities are greatly diminished by thorough drying.
The Chai Recipe
2 cups filtered water
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger (or 1 teaspoon dried ginger)
1 cinnamon stick
1 pinch sea salt
About 2 turns on a pepper grater of freshly cracked pepper
1 Tablespoon dried nettles
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
Honey to taste
Fresh milk (cow, goat or coconut)
Put the filtered water in a glass or stainless pan and add the ginger, cinnamon, sea salt and pepper. Bring the water to a boil and boil for one minute. While the tea is coming to a boil, crush your cardamom seeds with a mortar and pestle. Be as present as you can with your task. Enjoy the smell of the fresh cardamom and the boiling cinnamon. Turn off the heat and add the nettles and cardamom. You may also add black tea if you desire a caffeinated Chai. Let the tea steep for about ten minutes. Pour the tea through a tea strainer into your mug, leaving room for milk. Sweeten and add milk to your own liking. Sip, smile, relax.
Other herbs and spices you might enjoy:
Black or Green tea