I’ve loved tea for years. I drink all sorts – Green, Oolong, and Black. I must admit I haven’t quite accepted Rooibos into my tea-happiness extravaganza; but I don’t feel so bad, since it’s not actually “tea” in the Camellia Sinensis sense of the word. Now, something I love more than tea, is the sacred beverage that is black tea with milk. Oh, the creamy, lovely, warm aromatic experience of the perfect beverage!
“So, what’s the problem?” you might ask. Dairy (otherwise known as half of the equation). Tea without milk, is just tea. No magic. No transformational experience, just tea. So for the many individuals who find cutting out dairy significantly improves their arthritis, psoriasis, irritable bowel, chronic sinus congestion, acne, allergies, etc–this means they have to take magical-makings into their own hands!
If you haven’t guessed already, I am in this boat with the many others. I have spent the last few years working on this magical-making conundrum. For anyone in this predicament, there are two obvious options:
(1) Use what (already) readily exists, such as oat milk, soy milk, rice milk, hemp milk, sunflower seed milk, coconut milk, almond milk, nut-milk blends, rice-milk with nut-milk blends, etc.
(2) Make whatever you want.
Of course, I started with what is easy to buy first. And really, I’ve bought almost all of them. (I’ve avoided sunflower seed milk just because I find the taste very overwhelming usually.) Overall, I found for tea, soy milk* seems ideal; but there are simply too many reasons not to drink it (see end of post). Rice milk’s taste didn’t compete with my tea; but overall it’s a thin milk, and high in sugar (10 g/cup). I drank this the most, and found over time I gained weight and felt a little bloated. Coconut milk and hemp milk I put in the hard to digest category and distracting taste. Store-bought nut milks I also found to have too strong a taste for my tea. Fed up with all the packaging I was going through buying these, and uninterested in all the ‘other’ ingredients that come with prepackaged milks, I decided to try making my own milk. But what to make?
At first, I tried making individual nut milks — almond, macadamia, and cashew. Then, I tried doing blends between them. Then I tried adding in rice; then I tried rice alone. The plus side of making nut milks, is that you can use the left over ‘meat’ for making flours. The down side is that nuts are typically harder to digest than many other foods. After a few weeks, I noticed my symptoms weren’t exactly improving, and I was even wondering if my inflammation was getting worse.
At this point, I was starting to get fed up, and remembered a email I had gotten from a colleague on Ayurvedic dietary therapy. Whereas Chinese medicine generally looks a food’s temperature and the organs it affects and how, Ayurveda works with what they call “doshas,” or mind-body types, of which they are three: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. (If you’d like to know what type you are, I invite you to take an online quiz over on Deepak Chopra’s website.) Well, I took the quiz myself and found my body type was practically equal parts Vata to equal parts Kapha. Guess what? They’re like two ends on a spectrum–Vata runs dry, and ‘windy’; Kapha runs oily and heavy on mucus. Starting to get the sense that their dietary needs would be polar opposite? You betcha!
Looking up the foods for these two types, I ruled out nuts and white/brown rice. So, then I tried basmati rice milk. The bloating was a little better, but ultimately I decided I still had to find something else. In talking to my sister, she mentioned in passing seed milk might be the answer. Knowing sunflower seed milk was out of the question for my palate – I decided to bite the bullet and try pumpkin seed milk. I had read about it online at some point and thought it sounded too fancy, too flavorful or too whatever, and blew it off. But at this point, after months and months of experimentation, I was ready to try it!
Guess what? It’s delicious! It’s easy on my belly. Its flavor is not overwhelming. It doesn’t break up in my milk. And… being high in zinc, pumpkin seeds can help support progesterone release. (Did you know pumpkin seeds are also used in ‘seed cycling’ to help balance hormones?) Sugar content is very low (1.8 g/cup). Pumpkin seeds are high in iron (63% of your daily value/1 c) and very high in magnesium (191% of your DV/1 c ). They provide a good source of protein and healthy fat… and help you feel like things in the world are groovy (hello, L-tryptophan and glutamate!). Perhaps you’re starting to understand why I feel so elated about having found this miracle milk?
So, without further ado, I bring you a dairy-free option for all you black-tea loving Kapha Vata body types (and everyone else):
Pumpkin Seed Milk Recipe
Nutrition Facts (Serving Size 1 cup)
Calculated by caloriecount.about.com:
Here’s a close up of the nut milk bag I’ve been using lately. I’ve also tried a cheaper version and even just my reusable produce bag–but it pays to buy the finer bag, especially if you’re going to be doing this once/week.
Room temperature water for soaking, just enough to cover the seeds
1 c pumpkin seeds
1 medjool date, pitted
Near-boiling water, enough to cover amount of seeds using (maybe about a 1 c here?)
3 dropperfuls of vanilla extract (about 2.5 tsp)
4 c or so of room temperature water
1 nut milk bag, or other very fine straining device
Step One: Soak seeds overnight in filtered water. Then, rinse.
- These beautiful dark green seeds are Austrian pumpkin seeds. They produce a milk that is slightly green, and that has a very clean, fresh taste. They also cost about 3x that of Chinese pumpkin seeds (!). The Chinese seeds’ milk is a bit lighter in color; but its flavor, to my palate, is quite smoky. (My partner calls it “earthy.”) Either way, the difference is… notable!
Step Two: Add seeds and date to blender; cover with near boiling water. Blend.
Step Three: When it seems like it’s going to spit/splatter, quickly add more water, and the vanilla extract.
The hot water I’ve found helps the seeds blend better. And, the less water at first, the creamier the blending of the seeds. However, there comes a point when there isn’t enough liquid for the solid. At this point, the blender sounds like it’s about to choke. Quickly, I pour about a cup of water through the top at this point, just enough to get it to keep going.
After this additional water has blended well into the milk, you can add more water until you reach the top of blending capacity. (For my blender that’s about 3 c.) By this point, you might have been blending for about a good minute to a minute and a half. Continue blending until you don’t see any more particles in the milk.
Step Four: Pour off unfiltered milk, and give the blender a quick rinse; prepare nut milk bag.
I usually pour off the unfiltered milk divided about equally between two containers at this point; because I only want the blender half full at most. This way, I can fit almost both my hands in the blender as the same time as the milk I’m filtering. Why do this? To contain the mess, I say! (See next step.) To prepare the nut milk bag, just roll it over the lip of the blender. If I don’t have to take photos, I would normally only put the bag in about half way – so that the top of the bag stays dry and clean (i.e. less mess).
Step Five: Pour in (half the) milk; and milk the bag!
When I was four, a woman brought a goat to my preschool. I can’t remember if she milked the goat, and we just tried drinking it, or if she actually let some four year old yank on this poor thing’s lady parts. Either way, when I milk the bag, I feel like I’m a loving farmer. 🙂 You can’t just squeeze down and expect it to shoot out the end…. The most effective way I’ve found is to start by squeezing down from the top, and when my right hand gets to the bottom, I squeeze my left hand down towards it. In turn, most of the milk comes out from the middle of the bag (not the bottom). Hence, being able to fit both hands into the blender can make things a lot less messy.
Step Six: Pour out filtered milk into serving container; remove pulp from bag. Reload!
Here you’ll see I rinsed the original container used on the left so I could pour the now filtered milk back into it (saving dishes). The chunky stuff in the bowl is the pumpkin seed meat left over after filtering.
Step Seven: Repeat. Add remaining water.
All the pulp is discarded there in the bowl from one cup of seeds; both containers now contain filtered milk. Because my blender only hold so much, I find I usually add a cup of water at this last stage to the already filtered milk (now about 5 c total).
Yay, you’re done!!!
Here’s what the milk looks like against the white fridge (sorry, no color correct).
What about my tea?
Here’s me steeping Assam tea for two minutes.
This is what my black tea looks like when I’ve just poured milk in.
This is after 30 seconds.
What about storage?
As for any remainder goop in my storage containers, in the bottom I find a thin layer of what is like cream (5 cm?). There can be more or less depending on the process.
A bottle lasts for a good week in the fridge. Another note: You’ll find the milk can thicken up over the next day or two, so typically I’ll add a little more water as needed. The milk doesn’t separate in the fridge; though I generally give it a swirl before pouring (not really sure why I do that).
Alright, folks–that’s all she wrote! These are just my experiences, I’d love to know what’s worked for you! Drop a comment, send me an email —
Wishing you well,
*MORE ON SOY MILK
While the pros are pretty clear — you can find soy milk in most places these days, non-competing taste in tea, usually won’t break up on you — the cons are just too great:
In Chinese medicine, soy is seen as a cooling food; and for anyone who has a tendency towards weaker digestion, fatigue, or poor appetite, cooling foods are something that ought to be avoided as much as possible. (You can find a further explanation on temperature in my earlier blog, “Medicinal Herbs Not All the Same“.) As a result, I’ve found that soy over time seems to slow and clog my digestion a bit. (Not ideal!)
Beyond any personal reasons, let’s not forget GMOs. Scientific American in 2011 quoted “genetically modified soy may be present in as much as 70 percent of all food products found in U.S. supermarkets,” with “90 percent of the U.S. soybean crop… grown using genetically modified (GM) seeds sold by Monsanto.” Even if we buy organic, we’re still exposed to more soy than we’d probably ever like to admit was the case (hello, soy lecithin!).
Lastly, we can’t forget phytoestrogens come with their own list of pros and cons.