SPRING AHEAD 2013 — The year of the Iron Snake The snake: swift, smooth and the Symbol of Healing

I celebrated this New Year in Rio de Janeiro under the Brazilian sky. It was painted with thousands of glistening stars, cascades of shimmering rainbows, golden weeping willow showers of glistening sparkles, metallic explosions of light…the most elaborate fireworks I have ever seen.  Was it that light…or was it the thousands of people dressed in white, festive garb gathered at the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, walking into the sea offering white flowers, roses, gladiolas—the foaming silvery sea at night receiving the gifts for the protective goddess of the ocean—that was so stimulating and exuberant?  Night fireworks over the ocean create an electric energy wave very different from over a city of stones—skyscrapers, bridges, a sea of architecture.  The excitement of thousands of people waiting for the once-a-year spectacle explodes at the same moment when the fiery stars cover the sky like colorful rain and envelops you in joy for the New Year.

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Following in February come Carnival in Brazil, “Jankenoo” in the Caribbean islands,  “Fastnacht” in Switzerland and Germany. Costumes are prepared all year, rituals celebrated and enjoyed for these festivities. The spectacular parades of fairy tales, folklore and historical theatrical charades recall centuries of finding joy in dressing up and hiding in costumes and masks in Venice, Basel, Cologne, Rio or the Bahamas.  We love to drive out the dark spirits of cold winter nights and invite the light spirits of spring through play. But the fresh breath of Nature brings more glory and color than one can imagine. There is no need for costumes or artificial stars as we find great pleasure and exuberance in Nature herself, in the rejuvenating spring air and sunshine, and in the seasonal natural blossoming.

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Now with the cycle of spring comes Easter and Passover and the good recipes come again for these holidays!


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Maté Tea from Brazil

This healing tea is widely consumed in South America for its detoxification abilities for the liver, pancreas and gall bladder. This tea does not come from the regular tealeaf of Camellia Sinensis, but from the Yerba tree, a bushy tree where the roots and leaves are used. For the tea to serve as a medicine, the roots and leaves are used together. But for a regular aromatic golden brown tea you should take a handful of leaves, crush them in a bowl, pour hot water over them and let it all steep for five minutes. The taste is a bit tart like most detoxifying teas. You may want to add honey or brown sugar and a few lemon drops. A good tea after too much champagne for the New Year celebration!


Love Vine Tea is a regenerating tea from the Bahamas.

This is just the right stimulation for Spring!

Pick a handful of leaves from the vine of the bush, enough for one cup. Boil them in water and let it sit for a moment after. The taste is refreshing and pure. In the Bahamas they drink it “straight.” It is known to enhance fertility and potency, but also as a pain relief for muscle spasms.


East Friesen Tea from North Germany served with white rock sugar.

It is a festive comfort Tea, a mixture of Assam and Darjeeling teas derived from the tea tree Camellia Sinensis. Tea dealers on the island of East Friesland in the North Sea of Germany cultivated this elegant, tasteful combination of flavors, which is now creating its own history. They drink it with white rock sugar. I prefer brown sugar and a drop of milk. It is a strong tea and is great company to a healthy Easter breakfast.

Look for my forthcoming book: “Tea and Travels…Life Filled to the Brim”…coming soon.

Happy Spring days and a Prayer for New Beginnings


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 osteriadisangiulio@liber.it

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





This blog is about tea, travels, life and adventures–and some extraordinary moments I have witnessed–people, places and spirit. And always, everywhere, the teas I’ve tasted. The cups and the lives filled to the brim.  I’ve had beautiful formal teas, healing teas, uplifting teas, teas while traveling and meditating.

Here is an excerpt from a video I shot in Tibet along with a recipe.

Yak Butter Tea

After yak meat has been boiled for several hours in a big pot, the fat which is swimming on top is removed with a wooden ladle. It is then placed into a long narrow wooden container made from a hollowed tree trunk. It is then churned with a wooden stick until it is has creamy buttery consistency. A few sprinkles of salt are added. It is then poured into a bowl with strong black tea. The mixture of tea and heavy cream becomes a broth which invigorates and warms every part of your body. It is especially recommended in high altitudes. It stimulates circulation and digestion. (Also, see my blog from February 22 for more details and recipes about preparing traditional or simple Butter Tea.)

You may also enjoy a delicious tea of Passiflora (Passionflower), white lotus blossoms and chrysanthemum. It will stimulate circulation and increase fertility. It is recommended to treat nervous stress and anxiety and give a restful sleep.

My book about my tales of travel, teas of the world and healing systems is forthcoming. Here is an excerpt from the chapter about Tibet:

“…So many times in life, bitter experiences guide us to the most important wake up calls. I learned that they have been calls to grow up and ascend to the next steps of awareness.  As with healing teas, too often the most potent ones are also the most bitter. For example, dandelion cleanses toxins from collected anger held in the gallbladder, and goldenseal, with its harsh taste, cleanses the liver, detoxifying it from excesses and generally supports the immune system.  Two of my most bitter experiences purged me of my anger and brought me closer to an understanding of enlightenment. His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, ‘Your enemy is your greatest teacher. Respect him.’”


Time stands still when you’re enjoying a cup of mild floral healing tea while resting amidst the healing temple and ancient ruins in Greece. Those precious recipes are as powerful today as they were centuries earlier.  Despite the fact that Greeks love their Turkish coffee, they all believe in the healing power of herbal teas.

Please enjoy this excerpt from one of my videos shot in Greece.

Transform your home into a healing temple with just a few ingredients:

A rejuvenating and revitalizing plant, Wild Rose Tea can reduce the metals that can poison the body. The tea for removing poisonous metals, as in mercury dental fillings, is Cistus Incanus. It is also believed to help whiten the teeth and have other dental healing properties. The high polyphenol content of vitamin P stops the oxidation process in the cells. A rejuvenating and revitalizing plant, the regenerating light pink wild rose also has the benefit of working as an antibiotic and as an antiviral agent. Some people say that just drinking this pleasant tasting tea helps to repel ticks.

Place 1 teaspoon of the herb in a cup. Pour boiling water over it and let it sit for five minutes.

Add honey or maple syrup for added pleasure.

Lemon, Hibiscus Flowers and Darjeeling (or Assam) Tea with Maple syrup is a delightful summer drink. Boil all ingredients together. Steep ten minutes for a rich, full flavor. Add maple syrup. Then add ice and cool in the refrigerator overnight.


In my forthcoming book you will read stories about my extensive travels, and the wisdom I have gathered about Tea and Healing. 

Here is an excerpt from the chapter about Greece:

“In essence, the white light of Greece greeted me as if I had travelled for one year under a hazy glass dome. I remembered Henry Miller’s description of the incredible light in Greece, like nowhere else in the world, in his book “Venus in the Light.” All of a sudden the blue sky and sunlight were so eye-opening that everything seemed bright, clearing my brain from the extremes of the year’s impressions. It felt exactly right that I was back in Europe.

In Greece, the etheric becomes physical and you grasp, in its entirety, the concept of mind, body and spirit.

On a summer morning I climbed up the mountain in the center of Athens to visit the old ruins. I loved columns and always wanted to live in a house with a courtyard framed by them.  The Acropolis was flickering in the white light. The reflection of old marble stones and carved columns and the king’s chair stood in an open space on top of the hill. A fresh breeze was blowing so gently, as if nothing could move time. Today you would only see these monuments in the confinement of a museum. This was the beginning of my long relationship to Greece…although I did not yet realize it…   It must be a healing light, the light of Greece….”