I have to confess that I have been drinking and preparing Kukicha Green Tea in the wrong way all along! I only discovered that now as I was doing a bit of research about how to prepare the tea ‘properly’. Steeped too long, the tea will turn slightly bitter. Turns out though, that I really enjoy drinking it in this way, as it enhances the roasted taste and I love adding either almond or hazelnut milk and a bit of honey to it, especially in the winter. Sacrilege I know!
As with all things in life, it’s nice to follow the recipe, but sometimes it’s also good to do things in a dodgy way, or as I like to call it the ‘creative’ way, in order to discover new things.
Kukicha or bocha is different from other teas, in that it’s the stalks and stems of the Camellia sinensis or tea shrub that is used and not the leaves. From there it is steamed and dried and then aged and roasted. You can also use the unroasted variety, if you prefer it that way.
Therefore, in today’s recipe, I’ll offer 2 ways to prepare this Japanese tea.
The proper Japanese way: The tea can be steeped 3 times. The first time at 40 seconds, with the water at 70-80 degrees Celcius. The second time for 15 seconds and 30 seconds for the third time. Take some time to savour the more subtle flavor of this tea – plus if you’re not a big fan of green tea, you might find that you’ll love Kukicha, as it’s not astringent.
The dodgy way: Steep the stems in just-boiled water for 3 minutes or more. Drink as is, or add a bit of nut milk and honey to taste.
Benefits of Kukicha
High in minerals like copper, selenium, manganese, calcium, zinc and fluoride
Contains A, C and B-complex vitamins
Helps with digestion
Contains anti-carcinogens (to help prevent cancer)
Helps anyone suffering from bladder infection and heart diseases and lowers cholesterol levels.
High in antioxidants
Has 90% less Caffeine than coffee (normal green tea contains 60% less)
Any season is ideal to practice yoga, but I think especially in summer we have a need to move our bodies and we also have more energy to do so. If it’s been a while since you’ve been to class, or if you’re a complete beginner, you’re welcome to come and join any of the classeson offer.
Practising outside in the open air under the trees, with the birds singing is an amazing experience. The classes in Park Ciutadela are now starting a little bit later at 7 pm, so we’ll see you there! The meeting point is outside the gate of the park which is closest to Estacio Franca (and Barceloneta Metro station), a few minutes before we start the practice. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.
During the month of June, I will also be substituting Prenatal Yoga classes at 6 pm on Monday and Wednesday evenings at Yoga con Gracia, so if you are currently pregnant or know of anyone who is, you’re welcome to come and try out a class.
As of this month, I will be contributing a monthly post for the BWN (Barcelona Women’s Network) blog. You can check out the first one hereand basically I will be offering a short practice to address some of the common aches and pains that yoga can help to alleviate, or simply mini-sequences to create more space, freedom and flexibility in your body. Suggestions on which sequences you’d like to see are welcome, of course.
In other news, I am now also offering a 10 am Wednesday morning class in English at Espacio Vació, so hope to see you there!
As the weather is warming up again, I’ll be offering some early-evening classes in Ciutadella Park, starting from next month. So watch this space, or join the ujuyoga Facebook page to stay up to date with all the latest uju-happenings.
Oh wait. I should say, month. How does that happen? That life travels so fast, that we can hardly catch a ride on our own one? Last year felt a bit like that and now here we are already at the end of January of a new year. (Mmm, I still wanted to write a blog entry for December!) It’s hard to just slow down enough to really take in what is happening in our lives. That’s why I find practicing yoga helps. It’s a bit like pressing the slow motion button on the remote control of your life. You do a series of postures and through bringing your awareness to the breath and the different shapes you make with the body, you start slowing down and tuning in. Connecting with your centre and finding your way back to yourself again. Everything just seems to make more sense when we do that.
Last year, I started teaching yoga in Spanish for the first time. To be honest, for me it was quite scary to take that step. Getting up in front of a class and speaking for 75 – 90 minutes in a language in which I still didn’t feel that comfortable. That, in itself proved to be an experiment in mindfulness. I had to tune in completely and look at the practice in a completely different way, even though it was Astanga, something I had practiced perhaps thousands of times and where you always do the same series of postures in the same order. A student who had attended my class both in English and Spanish commented that I said a lot less in Spanish. I told her it’s simply because I lacked the vocabulary. Funny, but true. And perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. Speaking less and listening more. Something that could be valuable for all of us. Whether it’s listening more closely to our friends and partners or listening closer inside.
In conclusion here, what is it that you really want to achieve this year? Not in terms of completing a long to-do list of resolutions, but more in terms of growing as a person – on the inside? Try to find some quiet time here at the start to a new year to sit down and really tune in and listen. And then start following that inner voice, which at first might sound faint, but will become more clear the more you listen to it. It will lead you down the path of a more authentic and ultimately deeply fulfilling life. At the end, that is really all we want to tick off on our to-do list: that we lived deeply and intensely, having savoured each moment along the way.
As I sit here writing this, sipping my tea, it is a grey, rainy day in Barcelona. If there’s one natural remedy I swear by, then it would have to be fresh ginger. It keeps the winter bugs away, is great for digestion and adds a bit of internal heat to the body when the weather starts getting a bit more chilly. I love drinking spicy Indian masala chai, but as I’m not a coffee drinker, I’ve found that if I have it at night, I’m wide awake, because of the black tea that’s in there. As an alternative, I’ve started making my own South African inspired version of a masala tea, using fresh ginger and Rooibos tea. It’s super simple to make and really versatile as you can drink it on it’s own or add a bit of soya milk and honey, if you want something a bit more filling.
Simply grate some fresh organic ginger root into a medium pot of water, and then add two heaped teaspoons of loose Rooibos tea. The amount of ginger and Rooibos is up to you and will also depend on how big the pot is. I like mine really spicy, so I add a lot of ginger. If you only have Rooibos teabags, tear them open and pour the loose tea into the pot. Bring to a boil, strain and enjoy!
Ginger is thought to have originated in India. It is now of course used widely throughout the world, as an ingredient in both food and medicine. Listed below are just some of ginger’s amazing super-powers and benefits.
improves digestion and promotes a healthy digestive tract
helps minimise nausea
due to its anti-inflammatory properties it can help relieve painful arthritis
a natural remedy for the prevention and treatment of colds, flu and allergies
pain relief in cases of migraines and menstrual cramps
A few days ago, as we returned home from an impromptu action packed, 9-day trip which included Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Prague, I had the sudden urge to start spring cleaning. Except that seeing as I’m living in the Northern Hemisphere, it is, quite frankly, the wrong time of year. It could be due to the fact that I lived in Dubai for four and a half years, where there weren’t any seasons. Only hot and hotter than Hades. And now my body is finally tuning in to the change of seasons again. Presenting an ideal opportunity to get rid of all the unnecessary stuff (emotionally and physically) that we lug around in order to fully embrace the coming winter season and all that implies. Which is normally to slow down, and embark on a more quiet, inward journey, taking stock of where we are and how that aligns with where we would like to go with our lives.
In addition to the physical purging of clutter, I have also signed up for the 7 Day Fall Ayurveda Detox with Yoga Journal, starting on 12 September. The detox involves the following 4 steps: step 1 – slowing down and reducing stress; step 2 – following a detox diet consisting of ayurvedic foods specific to my dosha; step 3 – practising daily cleansing yoga; and step 4 – self-study or svadhyaya. I will blog a little bit more about Ayurveda in later posts, but in short, it is the ancient Hindu system of health and medicine, which approaches healing in a holistic manner.
If you are feeling inspired to join the detox, you can sign up here on Yoga Journal’s website to receive daily yoga practices, recipes and tips on how to make the best of your detox experience throughout the week. It’s completely free to sign up and a fantastic way to get your body and mind ready for winter.
Although we have been having unusually cool weather for July in Barcelona, I predict that things will change next month and that the heat will be on. A great alternative to drinking water during the summer, is to chill your favourite tea or herbal infusion and drink that instead. One of my favourite herbal teas to drink cold is Hibiscus tea, which I first discovered through my dear Mexican friend, Chio. Bring a big pot of water to the boil. Turn off the heat and then add the Hibiscus petals to the water and leave to steep for 15 or 20 minutes. You don’t need a huge amount of petals, but the water should turn an amazing ruby-red colour. If you would like to sweeten it slightly, you can add honey or stevia at this point and then pour it into pitchers or bottles through a sieve. When it has cooled, store it inside the fridge and enjoy! It has a lovely fruity taste.
Aside from Mexico, it is also popular in many other countries around the world and has the following super-powers which people experience from drinking 1 – 3 cups daily:
reduces high blood pressure
lowers high cholesterol levels
is rich in Vitamin C and helps to prevent and fight infections
is a mild diuretic, which helps expel toxins from the body and decreases bloating
has antioxidants which provide cardiovascular benefits
helps with weight-loss by affecting the way the body absorbs carbohydrates and fats
keeps the body’s bladder function healthy and prevents constipation
helps alleviate mild depression
As always, there are side-effects, and people who suffer from high blood pressure, need to consult their doctor, before commencing with the tea as part of their treatment. Women who are pregnant, breast-feeding or on hormone replacement therapy should not drink Hibiscus tea, as it affects the hormone function of the body. Also be sure to drink the tea of the red Hibiscus flower, as there are many varieties and not all of them have been studied.
I got into yoga for the same reason that many people are first drawn to the practice. I had been living with this dull, chronic pain in my upper back for years and I simply had to try something, anything to find some relief from it. Although I had known about yoga, and had always been curious about trying it out, it wasn’t until my physiotherapist urged me to try it in earnest, that I finally did. And this is how I ended up in a little Iyengar yoga studio in Cape Town. At this point, I would like you to imagine that the sky opened up and I heard divinely beautiful music and I had a big ‘Aha-moment’, because of course that’s exactly how it went down. Yes, because for the first time in years, there was an immense feeling of relief and openness and freedom in my body. And then incredibly, the same thing also started happening first to my mind and then to my spirit. So after almost 13 years of practice, I have finally figured out that this is the ‘hook’, or the ‘addiction’ of a yoga practice. That for many of us, we know that we have this practice available to us where we can return to that place where we are free from suffering, on a physical and mental level. And where we can connect with our true nature, which if we were to be honest, is a totally divine, joyous and cool place to be hanging out on any given day.