If you are like me, the day doesn’t begin in earnest until you’ve had your first cup of coffee. Dark and rich, sweet and creamy, something hot with a gentle kick of caffeine gets me started on the right foot every time. The only trouble is, my coffee habit can make fast day mornings even harder. When I wake up and realize I can’t put milk in my coffee, sometimes I think I’d rather just go back to sleep. As I see it, I have three options:
- Learn to drink coffee black. (Not going to happen any time soon.)
- Give up coffee, at least when I’m fasting. (Can we just pretend this isn’t an option for right now? Maybe someday, when my kids don’t wake up in the middle of the night anymore…)
- Explore ways of preparing coffee and caffeinated tea from around the world, and maybe create a few “specialty coffee drinks” of my own. (This one’s a no-brainer, don’t you think?)
When I discovered Swahili Ginger ‘N Milk Tea on Sasha Martin’s beautify Global Table Adventure blog, it was a revelation. I’m not sure I even like this tea. Like’s got nothing to do with it. This tea is powerful. It chases the chill of a winter morning and cuts through the haze of a sticky summer afternoon with equal ease. It soothes all kinds of ills with ginger’s goodness, and could easily be made caffeine free just by using decaf tea or even rooibos.
My recipe is essentially the same as Sasha’s, but I have made a few changes to the method, so I’ll give you instructions in full.
2-3 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated black tea milk substitute of your choice sugar or honey
1. Find some fresh ginger and pick your tea. I have made this using plain old black tea bags, looseleaf tea, oolong, and Kenyan black tea that I found at the Dekalb Farmer’s Market in Atlanta. I imagine it would also be lovely with rooibos (a traditional, naturally caffeine-free tea popular in Africa) or green tea.
2. Grate the ginger. Sasha’s recipe calls for 1/4 cup of grated ginger. I find a little less than that perfectly sufficient.
Peeling the ginger is optional, unless the peel is actually dirty. See the hairy, gnarly little piece that was leftover from grating in the picture below? That can go in the pot, too. This recipe isn’t winning any beauty contests.
3. Put the ginger in a pot with 4-6 cups of water (a standard mug holds about 12 oz., or a cup and a half). No need to be too exact with this recipe. Bring to a boil gradually over medium heat. This gives the ginger plenty of time to release its magic. It also gives you plenty of time to eat breakfast, check Facebook, or better yet, say morning prayers without worrying about your tea boiling over.
4. When your tea begins to bubble (this should take 15-20 minutes – if it takes longer try turning the heat up a bit), remove the pot from the burner and add your tea. (Boiling black tea can make it bitter, that’s why I don’t just add the tea to the boiling water.) How much tea depends on what kind you are using and how strong you like it. Sasha’s recipe calls for 1/4 cup of looseleaf tea. I find 3-4 teabags or 2 generous tablespoons of looseleaf make it plenty strong enough for me. The Kenyan tea I used this morning is super fine, almost like espresso powder, so 1 heaping tablespoon was enough. Steep for 3-5 minutes (steeping longer than that may make the tea bitter). You can stir in your sweetener now or wait and add it one cup at a time.
5. Strain the tea. A fine mesh strainer over a large glass measuring cup works great for this. My leftover leaves and ginger go straight into the compost. (Hurray for compost!)
6. At this point I usually pour most of the tea into a large mason jar to keep in the fridge for later. If you want a cup right now (and who wouldn’t?), rinse out your pot, add enough tea to fill your mug about 2/3 full, add a little sugar or honey if you didn’t do that earlier, and pour in soy, almond, coconut, or whatever kind of “milk” you like until your tea looks nice and creamy.
7. Heat until it’s hot and steamy, then pour and enjoy! You can froth it a bit with a wire whisk if you like that expensive latte feel.