November/December/Winter Recipes


The holidays of various religions are sprinkling the season like festive stars. We celebrate meaningful occasions with splendid foods from all regions of the planet.

Indian Spice Tea is splendid as dessert (without the calories of a rich creamy pastry). It also helps digestion after a rich meal.

Fill a large pot with 1⁄2 water and 1⁄2 milk, according to the number of servings. Sprinkle a handful of dark Assam tea (1 spoon per cup) into the water. Take plenty of cardamom seeds and clover, crush them with a mortar and pestle, and add them to the pot of Assam tea. Stir and bring to a boil slowly.

Cut up a freshly peeled ginger slice, press it’s juice into the tea mixture and add after you slowly simmer the tea blend on low heat for 20 minutes. The flavor becomes richer when you let it steep for awhile after boiling.

If you would like it as an afternoon dessert drink you may add vanilla sticks, or break some cinnamon sticks and boil them with the tea.

Invigorating teas for those cold winter nights

For an even more stimulating tea, boil these ingredients in water with no milk, but add a shot of good rum into the tea. Light some Tibetan healing incense and a lavender scented candle. Listen to Nat King Cole‘s Christmas songs and enjoy the moment.

For holiday blues: put 15 drops of Bach Flower “Rescue Remedy” in a glass of water and sip throughout the day. It will keep you smooth and even-tempered.

When it gets suddenly very cold and you have a sore throat or loss of voice, I suggest my grandmother’s traditional remedy: she peeled and boiled an onion covered with milk, then let it simmer for 10 minutes to absorb the juice of the onion. Add honey and drink slowly. Your voice will soon be smooth again.

Ginger tea for digestive support: Cut a piece of ginger into small slices and boil for 10 minutes in water. Let it simmer. Add honey and a tiny sprinkle of cayenne pepper. This is also a preventative for colds.

Peppermint tea for indigestion. Chamomile tea for cramping in stomach or colon.

Just when you think the winter weather isn’t going to come so soon this year, you are caught in a cold wind-rain-snow hailstorm on your way home from work. When your hands are frozen stiff, immediately put up your water kettle to boil for a pot of tea. Best to use Assam tea for this recipe. Open the bottle of rum from your last vacation in the Caribbean and pour a shot glass of rum into the teapot. Add some brown sugar, fill your favorite mug and hold it in your hands till the warmth softens your fingers. Slowly sip the delicious brew and feel your insides and outsides change.

You can also soak a few dry plums in hot rum tea overnight and nibble on it later with your tea. Warning: Don’t think you won’t feel the effects from it because it tastes like dessert!

This is a time of renewal, a time to be in touch with family and friends, to be mindful of all we are grateful for.

I would like to hear from you!

Tea and Sympathy wishes you a blessed holiday season!

In the New Year of 2013 look for my forthcoming book on Tea and Travel…Life Filled to the Brim.

Your friend, Sylvia


October/Lingering Impressions

Coming back to Orta

Religious places that are filled with the aura of spirituality like a basilica, temple or shrine always seem to exude calmness to me, creating a thoughtful moment in time, reflecting on the history of religion and its effects on our lives then and now.

The basilica on the Isola di San Giulio in Orta, built mid 15th-century, had this effect on me. The nunnery built around the church devotes their prayers to peace in accordance to the actions of Saint Giulio, who tamed snakes and dragons when he came to the island in the 11th-century.

He was a burdened person, burdened by the rejection of his own family. His search for fulfillment and a position in life showed him as a world travelling successful trading businessman, a famous talented artist, a hermit in the forests, who finally found peace living as a monk. The symbolic freeing of negative energies as in lust, greed and power are represented in the slaying of dragons and taming of poisonous snakes, overcoming jealousy, envy and hatred. He is worshiped for his insightful awareness and convictions helping the people of Orta to transform the environment to a peaceful one, making them look into the eyes of god again.

The washed out, old frescos on the walls of the basilica portray the lives of martyrs who died cruel, brutal deaths by torture for their beliefs.

It seems as though not much has changed since. I hope the wish for peace in our beautiful world overtakes violent history and carries into now—and that we all work on it together.

Love and Peace

September/Matcha Cappucino in Orta, Italy

As I greet the colorful early northeastern fall with a cup of Matcha Cappuccino Tea,

I am still savoring recent memories of relaxing sunny afternoons with friends
and family at Lake Orta, Italy—especially at Café Dolce—in this beautiful historic
town which the N.Y. Times recently called “The Secret Little Sister of the Italian

Sylvia (center) with sister and Riccardo
Sylvia (center) with sister and Riccardo

Matcha Cappucino Tea

Boil equal parts of water and milk in separate pots.

Add a teaspoon per cup of Matcha Cappuccino tea to the milk.

Whip it with a whisk or cappuccino “aerolatte” until it almost reaches a boil and is foamy.

Add the boiled water, whip it up again and poor it into a big cappuccino cup.

(Or using a blender, fill it with the boiled milk and green tea mix and whip to foam.)

Slurp the green tea foam and imagine yourself in Italy.

Powdered green tea is already mixed with brown sugar and honey so you probably won’t want additional sweetener.

If the day is too hot for a regular cappuccino or your energy is too wired or overexcited from a multitude of impressions, Matcha Cappuccino (Green) Tea is a perfect solution to feel refreshed while not overly stimulated.

Café Dolce serves it in their 17th century courtyard under Renaissance fresco wall paintings, as a hot or cold tea, but it will taste just as good with your friends at home—refreshing, light and “molto delizioso.”

Matcha Cappucino Tea
Matcha Cappucino Tea

A Night to Remember

A performance I attended in the forests surrounding Lake Orta, by a Roman not-for-profit theater group, was the most impressive memory of my summer—and will stay with me for a very long time.

In fact, while telling the story I feel like I am in that magical, bewitched forest and I can re-live the powerful images.

About 50 viewers were gathered at the foot of the dirt path leading up the mountain at sunset. We followed each other in silence, one after the other like a long chain, until we were halted by the view on our left–an open field, a green meadow filled with wild flowers enjoying the last rays of the sun, and an old wooden cottage hidden in the back.  A young man in a pirate outfit tumbled along through the grass singing a curious melody which told the story of a young boy who was brutally abandoned by his parents.

Then, a second voice appeared from the right—a witch in old rags, who answered his singing. Soon we discovered through the trees a beautiful young woman dressed in white lace, innocently crossing our path and continuing the song in a clear pure voice. And still we walked through the forest, now with the three actors to our right, in front of an old stone ruin. Few props set the stage and the story unfolded: the myth of the life of St. Giulio, the local saint of Orta. He came to Orta in the 11th-century and became known for taming dragons and snakes which lived on the small island in the middle of the lake. These demons robbed the people of their peace. The power and purity of St. Giulio and his belief in god restored their lives.

With each act, the scenery changed to a naturally appearing set design: an old dilapidated house, a cave, rock formations reminding me of Stonehenge, and the rough edge of a rock where the witch—the “seer”—piled up mounds of firewood, her face glowing over a small flame. We were seated on the ground, in the round, for the scene of the seer. I was like a child with open eyes, mouth and ears, so impressed by her dramatic storytelling. My imagination was thoroughly following her. As if by symbiosis, I formed the story from my knowledge of French and English, although I do not speak Italian well, which may have caused my expression. Suddenly the witch jumped towards me, held my face in her hands and called out: “This is the face of truth …la faccia della verità” and she stared deeply and mysteriously into my eyes. The two startled children near me jumped quickly away, wondering what would be next. It left me in a mixed state of emotions, but rather moved. The last scene was magically performed as we arrived at the mountaintop, looking down on Lake Orta. The small island in its center lit up, as well as the seven churches surrounding us on each mountaintop. The outskirts of the Alps in the far distance were now turning dark blue as night started to fall. The performance ended with a pure, simple and artful song by the five actors, now all in black, facing the lake with their backs to us, mingling with the night, allowing the glow of the monastery and the Church of St. Giulio to be the focus of attention. The wind carried the sound of church bells to our mountaintop ever so gently, reminding us to treasure this peaceful moment.

That night I sank into my bed in the 17th-century osteria, Osteria San Giulio (guesthouse), losing track of time and place, but with a full heart.

I will carry this moment of perfection with me, as precious as the earrings of a noble lady from Genova that I found the next day in the antique jewelry shop of Riccardo who introduced us to Matcha Cappuccino Green Tea, whipped with foaming fresh milk.

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Links I love :

Osteria di San Giulio, B&B at Lake Orta

The play: “IL CAMMINANTE,” performed by Teatro delle Selve, a street/nature theater group.