Cider Chai with Ginger and Kuzu
Here it is, the cure for what ails us this holiday season: overindulgence.
Photos by Leah Lizarondo
The old maxim is true: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. I used to attend cooking classes at The Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. During one of those summers, a work-study student used to make tea we would all sip on throughout the class. It was the best tea I’ve ever had — a warm, slightly sweet and very soothing non-alcoholic digestif. The digestif part was very important because at each class, I would inevitably end up sampling enough food to last me two weeks.
Ever since then, this tea has been my drink of choice during the holiday season of back-to-back food extravaganzas.
The secret to this tea? Two wonder ingredients: ginger and kuzu root starch.
We all know about the benefits of ginger, the wonderful root that can boost our immune system and sooth our stomach. What are we told to fetch from the fridge at the first sign of overindulgence? Ginger ale. Which makes sense, except most of the ginger ales at your supermarket do not contain real ginger (but do contain a truckload of high-fructose corn syrup). A little counterproductive. You are better off using some ginger syrup and adding some seltzer (more on that later).
The second magic ingredient is a little less common: kuzu or kudzu root starch. Kuzu root has been used in eastern medicine for thousands of years to treat indigestion (aka too many trips to the buffet table), balance sugars (four slices of cake is half the cake — let’s be clear about that) and calm nerves (relatives, much?).
It is prized in the eastern world* because it also is used to heal a host of other ailments, including high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, chronic migraines, and neck and shoulder pain. Some studies have shown that the flavonoids in kudzu also prevent cancer. There are many reasons to keep this starch in your pantry to add to your tea.
Kuzu root starch may sound exotic, but it is readily available at Whole Foods, the East End Food Co-Op or online.
The recipe for this tea is easy. The apple cider is perfect for the season and provides a base with just the right sweetness. You can use many different kinds of tea. I tend to switch between chai, green tea, tulsi (holy basil) or another calming tea. Chai will give it a warming, spicy taste, green tea will be invigorating and tulsi will be relaxing. The mouth-feel will be a little bit heavier than your usual tea because kuzu is a thickener. It feels substantial — very much appropriate for the winter.
*Ironically, kuzu is considered a weed in the United States! #SMH
Cider Chai with Ginger and Kuzu
Yield: Makes 4 cups
2 cups prepared tea (chai, green or tulsi all work well)
2 cups organic apple cider
1-inch piece of ginger, sliced thinly (no need to peel)
1 T kuzu root starch
1. In a small saucepan or pot, gently steep the ginger in the apple cider over low heat for about 5 minutes.
2. Add the kuzu and stir until it dissolves. If the kuzu is in big chunks, you may want to run it through a spice grinder or use a mortar and pestle to break it into smaller chunks.
3. Add the tea and heat through.