Thursday, October 28, 2021

Cardamom Milk Tea—The Next Best Thing to Ambrosia


 

I’ve been thinking of cardamom lately. 

 

I remember having an incredible tea in an authentic Indian restaurant on Gerard Street in Toronto. I remember its rich and sweet creamy taste. There was something exotic about its lingering taste and aroma. I knew it had cardamom in it, but I remember nothing else about it. When I mentioned this recently to a client, who is from India, he said I was thinking of Cardamom Milk Tea.

 

Cardamom Milk Tea is a spicy and sweet herbal tea made from the seed pods of the cardamom plant. The seeds can be infused directly in hot water or first ground into cardamom powder. Cardamom plants are native to Asia, but are frequently grown in other regions including Guatemala and Sri Lanka. The plant belongs to the same family as ginger and features pale green or beige seeds.

 

Cardamom is one of the world’s ancient spices. Native to the western Ghats in the moist forests of southern India, it is currently cultivated in India, Sri Lanka, and Guatemala, Indo China and Tanzania. Guatemala accounts for more than 50% of the global production. The fruits are picked or clipped from the stems just before maturity, cleansed, and dried in the sun or in a heated curing chamber.

 

The ancient Egyptians chewed cardamom seeds as a tooth cleaner. The Greeks and Romans used it for its pungent aroma. It was a main ingredient in perfumes and aromatic oils. Vikings first discovered this spice during their travels and brought it back to Scandinavia. 

 

Two types of cardamom can be used to brew tea: green cardamom and black cardamom. Green cardamom comes from the plant known by the botanical name Elettaria cardamomum. This type of cardamom boasts a strong, intense flavor that is both spicy and slightly sweet. The Epicentredescribes it as “warm and eucalyptine with camphorous and lemony undertones.” The green pods are the ones I typically see at the store and what I buy. Inside the little furrowed green pod are brown-black seeds in double rows with about six seeds in each row.

 

I found some wonderful recipes on how to make Cardamom Milk Tea and now make it a few times a week when my mood stirs for it. I find this warm elixir a soothing, comforting drink that easily replaces coffee or hot chocolate for its comfort-factor and rich flavour-factor. The huge bonus is its many health benefits. See below! 



 

 

Health Benefits of Cardamom Tea

 

Now, for the good part. Besides tasting divine, cardamom tea provides many health benefits. The seeds, oils and extracts of cardamom have impressive medicinal properties and have been used in traditional medicine for centuries.

 

Cardamom boasts anti-inflammatory properties that protect heart health and is frequently used as an antidepressant to boost mood. SenchaTeaBar lists several other benefits:

 

Weight loss and prevention of serious disease:cardamom tea may help accelerate weight loss by streamlining the body's digestive processes. Cardamom works to prevent the buildup of fat while helping the liver process waste products. Studies have shown that ground cardamom helps prevent obesity. Researchers found that cardamom improved glucose intolerance and prevented the deposit of abdominal fats. Cardamom was also shown to ameliorate fibrosis. Researchers found that cardamom consumption increased insulin sensitivity and decreased bad LDL cholesterol in pre-diabetic women.

 

Good for oral health:cardamom tea helps protect dental health by inhibiting bacterial growth. Drinking cardamom tea can help neutralize bacteria that grow on the surface of teeth (and cause dental caries) and prevent plaque buildup, cavities, and dental caries. The antibacterial properties of cardamom also effectively treat halitosis—more commonly known as bad breath. Bad breath is caused when bacteria builds up in the mouth and begins to feed on food particles. Cardamom helps eliminate the bacteria to keep your breath fresh all day long.

 

Boosts immune system:cardamom tea may help treat and prevent the common cold and flu. That's because cardamom is packed with antioxidants and vitamins that fight off viruses, fungi, and bacterium. Researchers found that cardamom effectively prevents viruses including streptococcus, which causes sore throat and is effective against staph infections and fungal infections including candida.

 

Protects heart health:cardamom contains high levels of potassium that are good for heart health. Potassium works as a vasodilator, decreasing inflammation and pressure on arteries and blood vessels. Drinking cardamom tea regularly may help lower high blood pressure. It can help improve blood circulation and lower your risk of heart attack and blood clots.

 

Digestive aid:cardamom tea has long been used as a digestive aid to soothe stomach ailments including gas and bloating. It was used in Turkey and Arabic societies to treat intestinal worms. Crushed cardamom seeds have anti-inflammatory properties that soothe irritated stomach muscles. This helps to prevent the contractions that cause stomach pains.

 

Cardamom is a natural carminative, which means it relieves gas. Drinking cardamom tea during or after a meal can help streamline digestion and prevent gas. Some research also shows that cardamom tea may be beneficial in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome although results have been inconclusive.

 

Like ginger tea, cardamom tea can help treat nausea. Sip this hot tea before you board a boat or plane if you suffer from motion sickness. Drinking cardamom tea may also help ease morning sickness, but make sure to consult a physician before drinking cardamom tea if you are pregnant.



 

Making Cardamom Tea

 

Cardamom tea pairs well with black tea leaves. The spicy notes of cardamom also pair well with coconut milk, dairy milk or oat milk (which is what I use). You can use honey or raw sugar to sweeten.

Ingredients:

 

·      Raw sugar (1 Tbsp)

·      Tea leaves (1 Tbsp; I use Assam black tea)

·      Milk (1 glass; I use oat milk because I am currently avoiding cow’s milk)

·      Water (third of a glass)

·      Cardomom (3 pods; I use the green ones)

 




Bring the water to a rolling boil in a stove top pot. Add tea, cardamom and sugar then simmer the tea for 1-5 minutes; it makes the tea strong and brings out the flavour. 



Add milk to the boiling tea. Wait for it to boil. It will rise up into a froth. Simmer down for several minutes. Then strain into a cup and drink while wonderfully hot.



 

Possible Side Effects of Cardamom Tea

Cardamom tea has not been shown to have any serious side effects when consumed in moderation. However, this herbal tea may interact with certain medications so it's a good idea to talk to your doctor before drinking cardamom tea if you have a health condition. Research shows cardamom may interact with blood thinning medications and some antidepressants so limit or avoid use if you take these medications. Cardamom tea may cause allergic reactions in certain individuals. If you experience symptoms including runny nose, itchy throat, or difficulty breathing when drinking cardamom tea, stop use immediately. Don't drink cardamom tea if you are allergic to either of the cardamom plants.


 Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Water” was released by Inanna Publications in 2020. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books.

 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Paradox of Details: The Role of Place in Story





 

A few weeks ago, I (virtually) participated in When Words Collide, one of Canada’s prime writing festivals in Calgary, Alberta. I was a featured writer, sitting on several panels and conducting presentations and lectures.

 

One of the two presentations I did was on the role of place in story. 

 

The role of place in story is a topic close to my heart and one I recently wrote an entire writing guidebook on: The Ecology of Story: World as Character. In my coaching sessions with writers and in my writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto, I’ve observed in the novice writer a need for more effective integration of setting and place in story. All too often, the lack of meaningful integration translated into a lost opportunity to explore the POV character and the story’s theme. The lack of meaningful use of place in story can result in a lacklustre story, overly vague characterizations and a story that lacks metaphoric depth and relevance.

 

At the very heart of a story is a portrait of a place…




 

The presentation and following discussion drew from my guidebook Ecology of Storyand overviewed topics covered in the book, such as:

 

·      Place as character & archetype

·      Place as metaphor (personification, symbols, allegory)

·      Place and first impressions (openings)

·      Place and emotion (over time and by POV)

·      Place through the senses

·      Place as environmental force (including climate change)

 

We also discussed how characters connect with their environment and I introduced the metaphoric connection between the Mi’kmaq and the white pine forests in Annie Proulx’s Barkskins.

 

I concluded the presentation with a discussion on the “paradox of details”: the more specific description is, the more universal its appeal. This is because the details can establish relevance and realism to the scene and the POV character experiencing them. Vagueness and lack of tangibility are avoided through specificity. The key, however, is to use details that harmonize with the theme and tone of the book: as metaphor. Details as metaphor is what you want to achieve. 

 

Because, as Ray Bradbury once told me, “everything in story is metaphor.” 





 


 

The Ecology of Story: World as Character is presented in two parts: Part 1 provides a comprehensive summary of the science of ecology, the study of relationships, and links to useful metaphor; Part 2 discusses world and place in story. Here I discuss how the great writers have successfully integrated place with theme, character and plot to create a multi-layered story with depth and meaning. Part 2 also contains several exercises and detailed case studies.



Friday, May 28, 2021

Nina Munteanu's "A Diary in the Age of Water" Longlisted for Miramichi Reader's 'The Very Best!' Book Award for 2021



The Miramichi Reader's popular "The Very Best!" Book Awards were recently announced for 2021. Nina Munteanu's climate fiction novel "A Diary in the Age of Water" is one of twelve books chosen for best novel. Winners will be announced on or by June 26th, 2021.





Thursday, April 22, 2021

Happy Earth Day! Celebrate with Eco-Fiction ... Then Plant a Tree!

 Mary Woodbury, author and publisher of Dragonfly.eco, lists some of her favourite “Eco-Fiction [that] Inspires Action” in the Spring 2021 issue of Ecology & Action. Among them is Nina Munteanu’s eco-novel “A Diary in the Age of Water”:



 Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Water” was released by Inanna Publications in 2020. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books.




Tuesday, March 23, 2021

"A Diary in the Age of Water" Finalist for Foreword 2020 Book of the Year Award


On World Water Day, Foreword Reviews declared my dystopian cli-fi eco-novel A Diary in the Age of Water a finalist for their INDIE Book of the Year Award in the science fiction category for 2020.

The story follows the climate-induced journey of Earth and humanity through four generations of women, each with a unique relationship to water. The novel explores identity and our concept of what is "normal"--as a nation and an individual--in a world that is rapidly and incomprehensibly changing.

A Diary in the Age of Water has already received much praise by reviewers and readers. Reviewer Lee Hall included it in his top twenty books that he read and reviewed in 2020: "...one of the most powerful books I've ever read...A truly important once in a generation read that flows like a wild river right through your imagination and heart." 

A Diary in the Age of Water was considered by reviewers of The Winnipeg Free Press one of the top twenty books reviewed in 2020.  Reviewer Joel Boyce writes:

"Like the works of Margaret Atwood and George Orwell, whose flavours seep through, this story works as both literature and persuasion."


 


Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Water” was released by Inanna Publications in 2020. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books.