Mama Tulsi

My friend Andrew Snavely, owner of Dobra Tea in downtown Burlington, is leaving us to open another branch of the tea shop in his hometown of Asheville, NC.  For me, Dobra has always been inked into my Burlington experience – throughout college I’d come on rainy or wintry days to take off my shoes and feel a bit bohemian, inviting the steam facial full of exotic smells to remove all worries of finals or boyfriends.

I am a big lover of Pu-er – fermented teas from the Yunnan province of China that taste best served in unglazed ceramic cups – perhaps made from Yixing clay, another region in China.  My friends ask what it’s like when I say it’s my favorite, and all I can tell them is that it tastes like dirt…yeah, and I love it.  The tea menu at Dobra caught my attention when it describes Puer-la as ‘like the cool earth of a temple floor.’  (Not a direct quote, but you get the idea.) MMM, my kind of flavor.  Puer comes with a subtle kick though, it actually has a lot of caffeine which can creep up on you unawares.

But I’m really here to talk up mama tulsi, pictured above.

I believe that Andrew was the first to actually introduced me to tulsi tea.  Tulsi is called ‘holy basil’ by many.  With a name like that, what herb can compete?  Tulsi grows in the same way as other culinary basil, but fresh, it smells a bit like a blend of basil and mint.  Before these past weeks at Kripalu, I had never had fresh tulsi, or really thought that it could grow in our climate. We picked stalks form the garden and infused our communal supply of hot water with it, partially because many people were struggling with colds.  A tea of dry tulsi can taste quite potent and astringent, but fresh it’s light a extremely aromatic. Benefits can be had any way you take it.

In India, tulsi plants are grown near the front doors of homes. There, they also survive year round, so they can get HUGE.  In Ayurveda, tulsi is literally a god send. The elixir of life.

In other words, tulsi tea is an adaptogen. What a beautiful word, which means it helps you adapt to stress, helping your system balance itself out. Tulsi supports your immune system, helps relieve headaches, stomach aches, inflammation, heart disease, etc etc. It is known to have anti-bacterial properties, and can be applied (perhaps a powder mixed with ghee) directly to the skin.

I keep reading more and more about this plant, and it seems like it could be used for almost anything.  Another thing, it’s tasty, and has no caffeine.  It’s an easy thing to try!

Kripalu recently planted it’s Ayurvedic Garden – basically a beautiful space filled with herbs.  We had to dig up the tulsi and rosemary because the sensitive plants will not survive a New England winter out doors.  I got to take home one of each, and hope to replant them so they’ll survive the winter. Rosemary has anti-bacterial properties, too…so if I can keep it alive, I can experiment on sick friends this winter…

Ciao.

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