Turmeric + kawakawa chai {vegan} + links

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I know life has slowed down a little when I find myself returning to old routines. Pulling the saucepan from the bottom draw I gather loose tea leaves, spices and ginger before wandering out to the bush just below our deck to pick fresh kawakawa leaves, making sure to only harvest leaves eaten by the looper caterpillars in the dead of night- a sure sign they are good leaves. Insects always know the good ones. Standing for a moment at the stove, I watch the liquid turn gold as it heats -coming to the boil three times- cause that’s the faint memory I have of watching chai wallahs in India many moons ago doing exactly this. Bringing it to the boil, removing it from the heat, giving it a swirl, returning to the boil and repeating this three times, just like a beautiful dance.

When I’m too busy to think straight I’m hard pushed to even pause long enough to grab a quick cup of tea using a tea bag and water poured from the jug. This, this moment of pause, means more to me than simply just a cup of tea. 

Usually I try to come up with recipes that I know everyone can make, no matter where in the world you reside. But today I wanna be a little selfish, I wanna share a little treasure from my homeland. The kawakawa or Pepper tree is a New Zealand native, relative of the Kava tree of the South Pacific (yes, the one that makes your body and mind numb when consumed!). Kawakawa are found throughout NZ, bar the cold far south of the country, or so I’ve been told. Our house is sheltered by native bush at the front and we’re lucky enough to have numerous kawakawa trees growing amoungst the kanuka and punga trees. Kawakawa imparts a slight peppery flavour to teas and has long been used in traditional Maori medicine as a cure for the common cold, as a digestive aid and a blood purifier (amongst many other things). It’s also often used externally, as a insect repellent and as a poultice for bruises and cuts/sores. I know those of you outside of NZ and in the far south of the country will not be able to get your hands on these magical leaves, but don’t fear, this chai is still beautiful without it. 

Along with my daily pot of chai, I’ve also been loving a few other new-to-me and not-so-new-to-me teas that I thought you might like to know about.

Tisano– Tea made from the husks of the cacao bean. Mild chocolate flavour and to me an ingenious way of using something that would possibly be thrown away! I love the original cacao tea, but my son adores the mint cacao tea and my daughter loves the vanilla cacao tea, which also has rooibos tea leaves added.

Organic India Tulsi Cinnamon Rose tea– I’ve tried many Tulsi teas over the years, but this flavour is new to me and is a new fav. Beautiful and fragrant and the smell when it’s brewing never fails to bring a smile to my face. I buy mine from my local health food store, but they sell worldwide.

Pukka After Dinner– This has been a long time favourite of mine, filled with a bunch of my favourite flavours. A blend of sweet fennel, roasted chicory, licorice, orange and cardamom, I drink this throughout the day… not just after dinner! It’s also a lovely sweet tea to drink to curb your sweet treat cravings mid afternoon.

Bonvit Roasted Dandelion tea– I’ve been drinking dandelion tea most of my life, thanks to my hippy parents. This is my favourite brand and strangely I prefer the tea bags to the loose leaf, it somehow tastes stronger… which I love. I love this tea so much that when we moved back to NZ from Perth, I filled half my suitcase with the stuff (knowing full well that its twice the price to buy in NZ!). I may or may not have also got a friend to bring over 3 boxes recently when she visited from Australia! Dandelion is super good for your digestion and a great liver cleanser. I drink it super strong with just a touch of rice milk. I also make it into an iced tea in summertime, you can find that recipe in my first cookbook (US edition here).

Turmeric + kawakawa chai
I’ve used fresh kawakawa leaves here knowing full well that they will not be available outside of NZ or even in the far south of NZ. If you don’t have access to them, simply use a little more pepper, or simply leave out, no worries! I know making tea in a saucepan will seem strange to many of you, but I urge you to try it. The flavour is far superior to simply steeping it in a teapot.
Serves 2

2 teaspoons loose black tea leaves
1-1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
5-8 slices fresh ginger
3-4 whole cloves
2-3 cardamom pods, bruised
2 kawakawa leaves, optional
4-6 whole black peppercorns
1 1/4 cups cold water (preferably filtered)
1 cup rice/almond/coconut milk
Brown rice syrup or honey, to serve, optional

Place all the ingredients into a medium saucepan (if you chose a small one it’s likely to boil over!). Bring the boil, allow it to boil for a few seconds before removing it from the heat, give it a good swirl to settle the bubbles, then return it to the heat again. Repeat this process three times, then strain into mugs, sweeten if desired and enjoy! Tea is such a personal thing, so feel free to lessen or increase any of the spices to suit your tastes. I tend to go ginger, turmeric and cardamom heavy and will often double these amounts πŸ™‚

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33 Comments

  • Reply
    Lindsey
    July 11, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    this recipe, and these photos are magic, emma! so looking forward to trying this in the colder months!

    • Reply
      emma
      July 11, 2016 at 10:23 pm

      Thanks so much Lindsey, that means the world coming from you! xx

  • Reply
    Anya
    July 12, 2016 at 11:05 am

    Emma, this is such a beautiful post! The photos are breathtaking and I loved your description of your tea ritual (so intrigued to try kawakawa someday). And thank you so much for all the new tea links, I'm a big tea drinker myself and always looking for new varieties – all of those sound amazing.

    • Reply
      emma
      July 20, 2016 at 12:56 am

      Thanks so much Anya! xx

  • Reply
    leaf (the indolent cook)
    July 12, 2016 at 11:44 am

    Love that rich golden colour! And I've never heard of kawakawa before, thanks for the introduction!

  • Reply
    Annette @ Wellness WA
    July 12, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    This is SO gorgeous! Thank you for sharing, I can't wait to make my own turmeric chai πŸ™‚ Not sure I can find the Kawakawa but you've definitely inspired me to get the saucepan out xx

    • Reply
      emma
      July 20, 2016 at 1:00 am

      Ah yes, I don't think you'd be able to find kawakawa in WA, unless you know someone who can bring you it dried from NZ πŸ™‚ It's lovely without it thought xx

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    July 12, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    This is a beautiful recipe! lots of interesting information and stunning photos!

    • Reply
      emma
      July 20, 2016 at 1:00 am

      Thank you! xx

  • Reply
    Kat Germain
    July 12, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    Canadian society is so quick to cast off any imperfect foods. I appreciate you letting those little caterpillars actually guide your choice of leaves!

    • Reply
      emma
      July 20, 2016 at 1:01 am

      πŸ™‚ See comment below for more info on why we pick the eaten leaves! xx

  • Reply
    Unknown
    July 13, 2016 at 6:19 am

    This looks amazing! I learnt something in my herbal medicine studies recently that may be of interest…..when the insects eat the leaves, it causes a sequence of chemicals to be released as a defence to the attack, the more the leaf is 'injured' the more these chemicals are produced, which are the beneficial phytonutrients we seek out of them when using them for health/medicine. Isn't that amazing! I miss them from living in Piha, they don't grow in Wanaka – too cold down here πŸ™

    • Reply
      emma
      July 20, 2016 at 1:02 am

      Ah that is so cool! I've always known to only pick the eaten leaves, but never known that! I've read the same happens in lettuce if you tear the leaves a couple of hours before eating them/storing them. Isn't nature amazing? xx

  • Reply
    Vicki Stokes
    July 13, 2016 at 6:56 am

    Oooh yum. I have a huge kawa kawa tree I'm difo trying this. Thanks for all your inspiring recipes. Every mag I pick up these days has your story or yum recipes!! Love it
    love it…

    • Reply
      emma
      July 20, 2016 at 1:03 am

      πŸ™‚ Thanks love xx

  • Reply
    Tori Cooper
    July 13, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    This chai sounds so wonderful! I have rarely ever tried making my own tea before so this is a very inspiring post for me!

    • Reply
      emma
      July 20, 2016 at 1:03 am

      I hope you try it! Enjoy xx

  • Reply
    withsunlightandcoffee
    July 14, 2016 at 12:01 am

    Thanks for posting this NZ specific recipe, perfectly timed for these July days and nights. I have actually been wondering about the best way to use these leaves for tea and how to identify which ones to pick. Have you tried adding the dried leaves to homemade mayo? – delish! I also added some homemade fermented siracha from your recipe book to make it extra hot. I don't think there should be any apology for sharing local recipes, we should eat what naturally grows around us so thanks for passing on and sharing that wisdom

    • Reply
      emma
      July 20, 2016 at 1:04 am

      πŸ™‚ I only apologise because I know that most of my readers do not live in NZ and won't be able to make this. But I love sharing a little slice of NZ with the world, nonetheless. I'll have to give kawakawa mayo a go, sounds delish! xx

  • Reply
    FOOD GEEK GRAZE
    July 15, 2016 at 1:28 am

    now, i have 1000 + 1 reasons to visit your beautiful side of the world. i will, in the meantime, go for the "more pepper" version. thank you for the recipe πŸ™‚

    • Reply
      emma
      July 20, 2016 at 1:05 am

      We are super blessed to call NZ home, that's for sure. I hope you make it here someday xx

  • Reply
    Fishinghuntingcenter
    July 15, 2016 at 6:26 am

    Great post for my wife

  • Reply
    David Nolen
    July 15, 2016 at 9:24 am

    Thank for sharing this recipe! I can't wait to try it at home. And stunning photographs! Have anyone metion this?

    • Reply
      emma
      July 20, 2016 at 1:05 am

      Thanks David πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Deborah Workman
    July 16, 2016 at 9:49 am

    It looks gorgeous! Quite easy to do. It's time for me to give it a try

  • Reply
    Jessie Snyder | Faring Well
    July 16, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    I love reading your words, Emma, they are so soothing. A big reason why I seem to sit and read through your cookbooks like they are novels <3. Your morning tea routine sounds so dreamy and calming, ah, I just love it. Making me crave the warm fall flavors over here in the US in the midst of our summer ;).

    • Reply
      emma
      July 20, 2016 at 1:06 am

      Thanks so much for your kind words Jessie! xx

  • Reply
    Anne Træner
    July 18, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    Love the images. It looks so tastfull.
    Added it on my list of dishes to try.

  • Reply
    Jeff M. Feshour
    July 22, 2016 at 9:57 am

    Tasty. I have a friend who is vegetarian. She also like cooking. I will tell her about this recipe.
    p/s: Good picture

  • Reply
    Robert Smith
    July 23, 2016 at 7:13 am

    I love your work! It's so fresh. I'm sure that all my friends will love your recipe. Save it for my next meeting.

  • Reply
    Dirty Karma
    July 23, 2016 at 7:19 am

    I heard about kawakawa chai before but actually never used it.

    Love the vibrant color a lot. I will recommend this drink for my sister.

  • Reply
    Abby | Lace & Lilacs
    July 31, 2016 at 4:55 pm

    Beautiful, Emma. This tea looks just lovely. <3

  • Reply
    Anthony
    September 2, 2016 at 9:53 am

    I have never seen this recipe before. Tumeric is one of my favourite in skincare and i usually drink tumeric mixed with honey. But your recipe is so great, the photos look beautiful and peaceful. I think i will try it out soon and hope it’s good as you said. Thanks for sharing amazing tumeric tea.

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