Do you ever have those days when thoughts are swirling in your head? You feel a bit spacey and scattered – too much to do, not enough time.
In that state of mind, I’m never very productive. Instead of focusing on work, I seem to just get stressed and add more items to my to-do list.
Luckily this doesn’t happen to me as much as it used to, thanks to my morning rituals and generally letting go of the need to control every minute of my life (and just letting life take its course.)
But it still gets me from time to time. Typically when I have too much caffeine or sugar … or when I start comparing myself to other people! (Ahhh comparison, the ever-present evil of the online world!)
In Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine), this is a classic vata imbalance. Vata is the air element, and it’s one of the 3 elements that we all have in our bodies (the others are pitta which means fire, and kapha which means earth.) We all have a different balance of these 3 elements/energies that is unique to us. It’s when we get out of balance that the problems arise.
So when I feel myself ‘in my head’, scattered, stressed, spacey (too much vata!) then I need to go to the opposite to balance myself out … and for me that means, grounding, warming, rooted foods to calm me down, and get me out of my head and back into my body. Think: roasted root vegetables, warming soups, carrots, parsnips, beets, squash, hearty, homey, filling, grounding foods – pure comfort food.
This recipe was inspired by one of these spacey, scattered moments. I wanted a warming and grounded drink to bring me back into balance. Chai spices are warming, milk is comforting and nourishing – so why not eliminate the caffeine (with Rooibos tea) and add a good dose of grounding rooted herbs like Dandelion Root? And this well-rooted chai was born. Enjoy.
Cinnamon, anise and cardamom are warming spices which enhance your digestion. Dandelion root is a detoxifying, liver cleansing herb that is also used as a coffee substitute because of it’s rich, roasty flavor.
Since we’re using hard spices, barks and roots in this recipe, you need to prepare it differently than a normal herbal tea.
Rather than an herbal infusion that we use with leafy green herbs, we need to prepare a decoction to get the herbal goodness out of these tougher plant parts. A decoction just means that you put the ingredients in a pot, cover with water, and then simmer for 20-30 minutes before straining & drinking. Because this recipe takes that extra step, I recommend making enough for 2-3 days of chai at one time, and storing the extra in the fridge (to reheat with milk as needed.)
Roobios is also known as ‘red tea’, but is not actually tea at all. It’s a caffeine-free herbal tea that is drunk regularly in South Africa, where it originates. I’ve been to South Africa several times and rooibos tea is everywhere. They even make ‘red lattes’ and ‘red cappuccinos’ using rooibos instead of espresso. As someone who tries to limit my caffeine intake – I LOVE this practice, and hope we can expand it to other parts of the world. Of course, you can also use black tea in this recipe if you don’t have rooibos and don’t mind the caffeine.
I used whole milk in this recipe, but if you don’t consume dairy, I’ve also made it with almond milk and coconut milk, and they’re all delicious. (Although I personally prefer a little more fat/creaminess in my chai – so when I use almond or coconut milk, I add a half-teaspoon of coconut oil and let it melt into the chai – gives that creamy mouth-feel that makes it extra-satisfying!)
Dandelion & Rooibos Well-Rooted Chai
1 Tb. dandelion root, dried
2 tsp. loose-leaf rooibos tea (or black tea)
1 cinnamon stick
4 cardamom pods
1 star anise
4 black peppercorns
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
4 cups water
To finishe: Milk (whole, almond or coconut) + Honey
Put all ingredients (except milk + honey) in a pan. Cover & simmer 20-30 minutes.
Strain out the spices and reserve the liquid tea. Mix the tea with your choice of hot milk and add honey to taste. I like 2/3 tea, 1/3 milk – but mix it to your own strength. Enjoy!
Store any extra tea in the fridge for 2-3 days maximum.