Getting Old School With My Green Tea

Camryn Elizabeth Photo

I was raised in a house laced heavily in tradition. My mom was born and raised for many years in Pakistan, before my grandparents immigrated to Canada with seven kids. They grasped tightly to the tradition and culture from which they came. This, in many forms - clothing, ideals and food.

One tradition that I inherited, and my children will inherit, is the process of making and consuming a solid cup of tea, or chai. All of our family gatherings, milestones, sorrows and celebrations have been marked with a cup of tea. You have it in the morning, the afternoon and immediately after dinner. It’s serious business. The hunt for the perfect tea, with the richest colour and right aroma is always a conversation piece. And don’t you get us started on the art of how long and what temperature to boil to the tea, water and milk and get that perfectly steeped cup!

I have the most vivid memories of winter mornings at my grandmother’s kitchen table. My mom would have dropped me off on her way to work, she would scurry out in her fur coat as her blue Ford Tempo was still running outside. I’d hunker down and watch the steam from the pot on the stove get caught under the hood fan and build and swirl. It was the steam of the water, teabags and milk on a slow boil, which my grandmother would pour when the colour was just right, into a bowl for me. A spoonful of sugar was added and buttered toast was plated. I would then devour it all, ripping off pieces of toast and dipping it into the tea. I was maybe, 6 years old and this was warm, soothing comfort food at its best.

There is also tradition in the way we prepare green tea, which I wanted to share with you today. I can still hear my mom pulling a jar of cardamom seeds and the crackle as she gently pressed them under a spoon so they would open. Then, in they went to steep, with green tea leaves in perfectly boiled water. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I asked my mom about why she did that. I thought it was about flavour and it is, but cardamom she explained to me, also has some health benefits -  that in my family - are tried and true.

Easing digestion after dinner, is the first my mom shared, it always felt good in the stomach to have this tea after a heavy meal. It’s thought that cardamom also provides relief from bloating, heartburn and blood pressure. So whether this is scientific or not, I don’t know. I do know that it’s a process and tradition that my family has held and for us, it works.

Another tradition is to add fennel seed. It adds a flavour reminiscent to licorice to the tea, which I find to be a matter of taste. Some love it, some do not. It’s also said to relieve bloat and contains many vitamins and minerals. You can enjoy this version with milk.

From time to time my mom has added goji berries too. This is my personal favourite. If you read up on it, boosted immune system and a nice boost in vitamins and minerals are known benefits.

So, these are just a few ideas on how to add your own flavours to tea that just might in turn, have benefits beyond the taste!






Amber Saleem