Made with a black tea infused with Ayurvedic herbs, cinnamon & cacao, this Herbal Chocolate Tea is a pick-me-up like no other!
The earliest memory I have of Ooty was from when I was probably 8. My dad’s company had a guest house up there that was rented to employees at next-to-nothing rates and we went there a few times when I was a kid. You’ve heard me talk about the sweltering Indian summers, but thanks to the higher altitudes, Ooty remains immune to the general heat, making it a haven for the crowds to throng to during summer.
If you can manage to steel yourself and brave the numerous hairpin bends that would make anyone light-headed and nauseous, and make your way up the hill, you’d be welcomed to the glorious sight of foggy hill tops crowned with wispy clouds, vast expanses of lush green tea estates, gardens over-flowing with blooms of all color, and a hauntingly beautiful lake. Now if you’re a world traveler of sorts with an obnoxious disposition, you would probably try to be a little obtuse to the charms of this quaint little hill station, but I can’t imagine the rest of us can resist the magic.
Childhood memories too, like the aforementioned hill tops, can get foggy and unreliable, but a few scenes stand clear of the mist, as clear as clear can be. One such memory is of the time my overtly prudent parents refused to take us boating on the ice-cold lake because we were too young, and my little brother and I staged a mutiny by grabbing hold of the metal railing over-looking the water and refused to let go. I remember that quite clearly, and if I think hard, I can even see the lake, gloomy as ever under a dark cloud cover, with just a smattering of boats slithering away on the still waters, carrying tourists luckier than us.
And after my parents managed to disentangle the mutineers from the steel railing, they tried to appease us with a few carrots from a vendor by the lawn. I will never forget those carrots, freshly pulled from the ground, with their striking carrot top greens (a rarity in itself at the time) and how the honey-sweet juices trickled down our little hands as we bit into them. I don’t think I’ve ever had carrots as juicy as that, and it helped us forget about the lake.
I also remember feeling the omnipresent cold for the first time, you don’t forget things like that! The first morning of our stay, my brother and I sneaked out of our room (he was ever the willing side-kick to my devious crimes), barefooted and went outside before anyone else were awake…. We got out of the warm cozy house and ran full speed ahead onto the concrete driveway and the second our feet touched the cold hard ground, we realized what a huge mistake we’ve made. We promptly ran back inside and crawled under the covers and laughed about it for hours, the way only children seem to be able to do.
It would be more than a decade before I’d return to Ooty again, this time as a college student with my classmates, and it was during this trip that I tried the Chocolate Tea. We had just driven up the hill, and at the top, strategically placed near the lookout point was a tiny tea shop, selling freshly brewed tea from the estate nearby. It was cold up there, and we were slightly wet from literally having our head in the clouds, and the sweet aroma-filled steam spewing out of this tea shop made it impossible to ignore.
There were all sorts of flavors to choose from, but I took one look at ‘Chocolate Tea’ on the scraggly chalkboard menu and went straight for it. I’ll never forget that first taste, that pleasant aroma with a hint of cocoa, or the way it felt going down my gullet, cutting through the chill in my bones like a skilled samurai. It wasn’t too creamy or milky, no, but every sip was like a hug that shot through the veins, warming me from the inside out like a magic potion!
We came home with several bags of this Chocolate Tea blend to share with everyone, and over time I forgot about it until last week, when I was reminded about this trip and this tea. So I set about making it the way I remember it tasted and whether my memory served me right or not, this version was delicious and comforting nonetheless.
While this Chocolate tea would taste like its best, most original self when made with regular black tea, I used my favorite herbal blend tea instead and it was amazing in a whole other way. My usual tea is a blend of black tea + Ayurvedic herbs like Ashwagandha, Mulethi, Tulsi, Ginger and Cardamom. I added cinnamon and cacao powder while steeping the tea, drowned the infusion in a little milk, sweetened it with a honey and it was absolutely heavenly!
Just in case some of those herbs* seem alien to you, here’s what they’re good for:
- Ashwagandha (also called Indian ginseng) helps strengthen and energize you, fortifies your immune system and is even an aphrodisiac!
- Mulethi (licorice) helps soothe a sore throat, good for digestion, boosts immunity, heals ulcers and regulates hormonal imbalance in women.
- Tulsi (Holy Basil) is worshiped in India as the ‘elixir of life’ and rightly so. It is a detox agent, fights and prevents cancers, is good for the skin (inside and out), antibiotic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, digestive aid, stress relief, balances your bodily functions, helps with respiratory problems, regulates kidney functions and more!
- Ginger is anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, good for nausea, relieves muscle pain, aids digestion, lowers blood sugar, and has been known to relieve menstrual pain as effectively as Ibuprofen.
- Cardamom isn’t just an aromatic in cooking, it’s also an anti-depressant, prevents colorectal cancer, relieves and abates gastrointestinal disorders, and detoxes the body.
- Cinnamon regulates blood sugar (anti-diabetic), is an anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, regulates cholesterol and blood pressure, protects brain function and more!
- Cacao is good for a lot of things too, but most importantly, it elevates the body’s serotonin levels, making you feel happy! And that’s as good a reason as any to get a daily dose!
So much goodness, in one delicious cup – I don’t see a downside here at all! And with the colder half of the year fast approaching, this is a drink I’ll be adding to my Winter arsenal!
- This is the herbal black tea I used in the recipe, you should find it in Indian grocery stores. But if you cannot get your hands on it, your usual black tea should work just fine!
- The cocoa powder tends to settle at the bottom if left sitting for a while, so be sure to stir well before drinking.
*Herbs work best when used over time as a part of a healthy lifestyle. They are very powerful and must be used carefully. Consult a trusted herbalist or healthcare practitioner if you have questions about using herbs, or to see if they may conflict or counteract any of your medications.