Happy New Year!
As winter sets in January should be about rest and recuperation. Make sure you are getting lots of well earned sleep and recharging your emotional battery.
Because it is the beginning of our calendar year we feel compelled to spend a lot of energy trying to resolve to be “better” in some way. We are taught to believe that the custom of making new years resolutions will immediately improve our lives. But extreme change in the coldest and dark time of the year can be really stressful to your system which can create very short lived change.
I tend to believe that if we are going to start new beginnings, the more appropriate time to make change is in the spring when energy is on the rise…not this deep sluggish part of winter.
I think it is very healthy to strive for a balanced life and sometimes making hard choices are the only way to achieve that balance, but January should be more a time when you can simply, and without judgement, let go of any emotional baggage from the past year. Try to give yourself some freedom from self criticism and judgement, be happy with who and where you are right here, right now. The best way to recharge yourself in January is to reassure yourself that your past has provided you with the wisdom you need to be the right person suited to the task of living your life right now. You do not need to linger upon things that happened in the past, just know that those experiences shape the good decisions you are making here and now.
I decided to take some time off from my work in Washington and head to Argentina for the month of January. I had been working non stop for a couple years to build the foundation for my businesses and I was starting to feel fatigued. In the spring I am taking on even more responsibilities on the farm. So, in the spirit of recharging my emotional battery, I wanted to come to the sub-tropical jungle and spend time with one of my most grounding friends who is living here in Obera, Argentina. My friends here have been living without electricity and permanent shelters in the subtropical jungle in the north of Argentina for the past year. I just arrived in a region called Missiones to a town called Obera yesterday (December 29th). I am writing the newsletter ahead of time because I am worried that I wont have internet access much over the next couple weeks.
Argentina is a very strange country, having only been here for a short time, so I cannot even begin to give you an accurate account of the place. I spent a few days in Buenos Aires, which, turns out, is a gigantic city. The neighborhood I was staying in, Palermo, is almost as big as Seattle. On a map it seems like you can easily walk from one neighborhood to another only to find out it would take you several hours. Because it is summer the heat is very oppressive, especially in the intensely urban landscape of Buenos Aires.
When you arrive in Argentina you must leave your expectation at the airport. Nothing is the way you expect or have read about. Thankfully, people here are incredibly nice and helpful. I speak very mediocre spanish (not understanding the local accents at all) and most of the time people have been super patient with me. Almost everyone you meet wants to chat you up in in English anyways.
Here are a few pictures I have snapped so far from where my friends live in Obera. I am not huge into photography, so bear with me. Also, I am sorry I didn’t get a chance to snap shots for the tea descriptions this month.
This is the communal space in the bush my friends built. This is the first generation model built in 2013.
Below is a native jungle nettle! this photo does not to the size and shape of this species justice. It grows to be almost 20 ft tall and leaves over two feet long.
Below is a shot of the wood fire cookings stove commonly used in this area for outdoor cooking
I do not have great pictures of the actual jungle, just lots of pretty butterflies and other strange and wonderful insects. Below is one of my favorite butterflies so far.
Ingredients: Gunpowder Green Tea, Rose Petals, Cinnamon, Cardamom, and Almond
Steeping Instructions: Simmer 1-2 tsp tea and 2 cups water in a lidded saucepan for 10-20 minutes. Strain and enjoy. You can also add a touch of honey for added deliciousness.
Kahwa is one of the teas I sent out last January and was well-liked by everyone I talked to. It is a really neat tea that hails from the Kashmiri region, an intersecting region that includes parts of India, Pakistan, and China, it is also served in Afghanistan. This tea is more typically served in areas that are predominately Muslim. In the traditional manner it is made in a beautiful samovar. From what information I could find on the subject, most Kashmiri’s believe Kahwa has been a part of their culture since time immemorial (source: wikipedia). Some have dated its roots back to 1st or 2nd century AD. Kahwa is usually served to guests as dinner, saffron is often added for very special guests.
I have a deep fondness for the ingredients in this tea and the flavor. I have made other teas that combine spices and nuts, but none have I enjoyed as much as this. Most nutty flavored teas in the grocery stores (ie hazelnut or almond) have added “natural flavoring” that primarily imparts the nutty flavor. It is much more difficult to capture the aroma and flavor using the real dry roasted nuts themselves, so the almond flavor in Kahwa is deliciously subdued.
Ingredients: Assam Tea, Ginger, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Fennel, Clove, Black Pepper, Allspice, and Saffron
In an attempt to allow you to experience a more traditional cup of chai, I sent out the black tea in a separate packet. If you really want to get crazy, you can even crush the spices up a bit more in a mortar and pestle before combining them in a lidded saucepan with cold water and bringing that to a low simmer for 10 - 45 minutes. By crushing the spices right before making your chai you are opening them up to more surface area and imparting or infusing your own energy into the process, which is energetically very good. I also recommend adding fresh ginger to your chai if you want a more fresh taste. Fresh ginger tastes amazing with saffron, so I highly recommend grating a small thumb of ginger in each batch you make.
A few notes about making chai: you can always add more water if too much evaporates off during the initial simmer. When adding the milk to the simmered herbs make sure to watch the pot closely, you do not want to have a bubbly eruption from boiling milk…which is often what happens to me if I step away for even a second as I am heating the milk. Once the milk is hot you can toss in the black tea and let steep for 4-5 minutes. You can add as much black tea as you want, but I usually just add a small tsp per cup. Always sweeten your chai, even every so slightly to enable the flavors to brighten and come alive. The sweetener balances some of the sharpness of the spice blend.
This is a very special chai blend with saffron! The flavor will be much more delicious. I backed off on the ginger and cinnamon in this blend and I hope you enjoy a even balance of spices. If you want it spicier please add more fresh ginger to your chai!
Ingredients: Echinacea, Lemonbalm, Elderberry, Elecampane, Eucalyptus, Yerba Santa, Licorice, Slippery Elm, Spearmint
This is a new wellness tea that I created for those with cold symptoms that seem to linger. I drank a ton of this tea when I was making it and almost instantly felt a drying effect on my lungs and sinuses. Even though I was not sick, the tea had cleared stagnant mucus build-up in my nose, throat, sinuses, and lungs. That being said, you can use this tea to clear dampness or residual effects of a past cold or flu, as well as, to treat new colds and if you like the flavor as a protective measure. I suspect most people will like the flavor of my standard wellness tea (the one I sent out a couple months ago) better for general drinking.
Deep Wellness does have a drying effect so if you live in a dry climate, you probably wont not need to drink many cups a day unless you have a cold. If you do live in the southwest where the climate and enjoy cold drinks on warmer days, try making Deep Wellness as a sun tea or cold infusion, it is delicious!
Echinacea root much touted as a miracle cure for colds is best taken at first signs of a cold or flu. If you start to notice that sluggishness and aches of suppressed immunity take this tea or other echinacea supplements immediately and in seemingly large doses. For example, drink this entire packet of tea in one day. Echinacea has a strong bitter flavor which must be mediated with other herbs when using it in a tea, most of the teas I have tried with echinacea have extreme amounts of licorice root to overpower the bitterness of the echinacea root, I am not a fan of overly sweet teas, so I hope this tea is well balanced for you and not too bitter tasting.
Elderberry helps protect against flus and infections, it has anti-viral properties. It has been used for centuries to treat respiratory illnesses associated with colds, flus, and infections. I love the taste of blue elderberry (Sambucus cerulea) because it is more fruity than the black elderberry, I also find it more effective than the commercially available black elderberry (Sambucas nigra). I harvested and dried the blue elderberry in this tea in the last summer from mid elevation wild trees on the east side of the cascades in northern Washington.
Elecampane is one of the roots that I grow on Old Chaser Farm on Vashon Island, WA. It has a strong affinity for the lungs and is able to clear congestion in the lungs and lower throat. It is used in western herbalist, TCM, and Ayurveda to treat bronchitis and asthma. Elecampane has actions which are expectorant, anti-fungal, anti-tussive, warming. Because it is relaxing to tissues it can soothe the bronchial tube lining as it acts as an expectorant for clearing the lungs. I wanted to make delicious throat lozenges this fall from my elecampane and angelica roots but missed my opportunity, so I have to wait until next fall’s crop.
Eucalyptus and Yerba Santa support respiratory health. Eucalyptus is the main ingredient in many herbal chest rubs for kids and adults with deep chest colds. In tea form, it has a nice menthol character that helps clear mucus blockages in the sinuses and chest. It also has an uplifting aroma which help brighten the mood. Yerba santa is native to much of the southern cascade mtns and sierras. It is typically used for respiratory health. I adore it for it’s rich aromatic resins that smell terrific. I more often use it lightly for fragrance than for a strong herbal action.
Licorice, Lemonbalm, Spearmint, and Slippery Elm are used in this blend as supporting herbs. Licorice in larger quantities strengthens immunity, in this blend it is more for flavor and soothing a sore throat. Lemonbalm in a nervine herb that does has anti-viral properties. I wanted to include it in the blend to help support nervous system health, especially when you might be feeling a bit weak or fatigued from a cold. Spearmint is more for flavor and aromatics to help clear sinus congestion and remove excess heat if there is any. Slippery elm is a slightly sweet herb that when steeped helps sooth inflamed tissues in the mouth and throat. It is great for sore throats and soothing tissues in the throat, especially if you have a cough.