Ahh Haa! The Secret Aroma Was Called "Yogi Tea!"

In 1978 I was invited to a Kundalini Yoga class at the Brooklyn, NY ashram. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but this rising Park Avenue executive “knew” it would be a turning point in my life, and I just had to go!

So I climbed the steps to the brownstone’s front door and knocked.

Moments later it opens to a most radiant woman dressed from head to toe in flowing white. I blinked a couple of times, gathered my composure, then –“wow!”- my nose picked up a heavenly aroma too!

I entered, removed my shoes and was about to be taken to the yoga room, when I realized that the heavenly aroma -an intoxicating blend of exotic spices and sweet pungency –was everywhere, but seemed to be coming from the kitchen. Even though it was the end of the day and I was dog tired, inhaling that magical blend woke me up and made me feel alive! I just had to find out what it was.

After the enjoyable Kundalini Yoga class, I made a bee line to the kitchen where a fresh pot of tea had just been made.

Ahh Haa! The secret to that aroma was discovered - “Yogi Tea!”

A million questions popped into my head and the kitchen staff patiently answered them all. In short, they explained that when Yogi Bhajan came to America in 1969, he not only brought Kundalini Yoga, but also a “health tonic” for de-toxifying and strengthening the body.

Yogi Bhajan called it “Yogi Tea” and it is based on an age-old Ayurvedic hot beverage commonly served in India called “chai.” The original recipe is in the great lifestyle book titled Kundalini Yoga The Flow of Eternal Power -An Easy Guide to the Yoga of Awareness by Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa (available at Ancient Healing Ways and Spirit Voyage) and also well discussed in the book Foods for Health and Healing -Remedies & Recipes by Yogi Bhajan (available at Ancient Healing Ways and Spirit Voyage).

Over the years I’ve made small adjustments to the proportions of the main ingredients -for example, adding more ginger root and substituting almond milk for dairy milk -to reflect the stresses and challenges of “the times.”

Here is our recipe to make 1 gallon. It is okay to adjust proportions to taste. In parentheses are some of the traditional health benefits for the ingredients.

Ingredients

1 gallon of water
1 level tablespoon of whole black pepper corns (aids digestion and respiration [1] [2])
15 whole cloves (aids digestion, immune system, anti bacterial properties [3])
2 level tablespoons of whole cardamom seeds (aids health of colon, digestive problems [4] [5])
4 sticks of cinnamon (each about 2-3/4 inches long) (blood sugar regulator, reduces high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure [6] [7])
¾ cup of finely chopped ginger root. Okay to leave skin on and okay to use a food processor to finely chop the ginger root (strengthens immune system, improve digestion [8] [9])

Cooking

Put above ingredients in a covered pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a slow boil for 1-1/2 hours. Turn off heat and let steep in covered pot a minimum of two hours (or up to 24 hours is okay. Just leave the pot covered on the stove.).

Strain contents through a fine mesh into glass bottles and refrigerate. Will last 2-3 weeks. Some sediment will appear on the bottom of the jars, just shake up the jar before pouring out!

Optional Ingredients

Black Tea -a tea bag or two was part of the original recipe and is an important ingredient in modern day chai. I leave it out, I don't need the caffeine.
“Milk” and “Sweetener” are optional and should not be cooked with the above ingredients.
“Milk” to taste. I prefer almond milk, but rice milk or dairy milk will work.
“Sweetener” to taste. I absolutely love a teaspoon of maple syrup -the mapley flavor goes great with the cinnamon and cardamom spices.

I’ve noticed at my classes that some people prefer to drink it “straight” without milk or sweetener. Whoa, more Kundalini Yoga Power to them!

To Serve

In the winter time it is great to serve hot! Heat up the Yogi Tea “stock” from the refrigerator first, then add the “milk” to taste -maybe as much as 20% of the volume of the cup.

I use almond milk. I have used rice milk, but many brands separate into a mess at the bottom of the cup. Dairy milk also works.

I then add about a teaspoon of “Grade A: Dark Color and Robust Flavor” maple syrup. (This use to be called “Grade B” maple syrup but the USDA changed the grade names. Read my blog post “Where’s My Grade B?” for details.) Honey also works as well as unsweetened.

In the summer time, I like it cold straight from the ‘fridge. Just mix the “stock”, “milk”, and maple syrup all together in a big glass and enjoy! Sometimes I like to put it all in a blender with some ice and make a Yogi Tea Smoothie. And on some summer days when everything is going incredibly right, I'll freeze a container of almond yogurt and use that in the blender instead of ice for an extra smooth and yummy hot summer day delight!

A quick note about the ginger -until a year ago I mostly used the ordinary ginger found in a grocery store or Asian market because organic ginger was hard to find and expensive (about USD $10 per pound). This past year things have changed, several local grocery stores now stocks excellent quality organic ginger at USD $5 per pound.

Since switching to organic ginger, I’ve noticed that, pound-for-pound, organic ginger has a stronger, more intense and enjoyable flavor. Keep this in mind when shopping so that you can adjust the quantity of ginger for the strength and flavor of your Yogi Tea.

As a side note, there is a commercial company called Yogi (until recently called The Yogi Tea Company) that was started by Kundalini Yoga students in 1984. One of the many enjoyable teas they sell is Yogi Bhajan’s original Yogi Tea recipe (minus the black tea) in a tea bag for those times when you can’t make it fresh. It is called Classic India Spice Yogi Tea” (from yogiproducts.com) and is available in many health and grocery stores.

I love my daily mug of Yogi Tea. Like breathing, Kundalini Yoga, snuggling, praying, meditating and writing, I can’t imagine a day without my Yogi Tea!

Bless Your Heart and All Your Other Parts,

Sangeet
October 29, 2016

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References

Black Pepper -aids digestion, respiration:
[1] https://theherbalacademy.com/medicinal-uses-of-black-pepper
[2] http://www.stylecraze.com/articles/amazing-benefits-of-black-pepper

Clove -aids digestion, immune system, anti bacterial properties:
[3] https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/herbs-and-spices/health-benefits-of-cloves.html

Cardamom -aids health of colon, digestive problems:
[4] http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-614-cardamom.aspx?activeingredientid=614&
[5] https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/herbs-and-spices/health-benefits-of-cardamom.html

Cinnamon - blood sugar regulator, reduces high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure:
[6] https://draxe.com/health-benefits-cinnamon
[7] http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266069.php

Ginger - strengthens immune system, improve digestion:
[8] https://draxe.com/10-medicinal-ginger-health-benefits
[9] https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/herbs-and-spices/ginger.html


© 2016 Sangeet Kaur Khalsa, All Rights Reserved.
Photography © 2016 Sangeet Kaur Khalsa and Hari Nam Singh, All Rights Reserved.