I’ve recently been helping an Australian friend in her quest to find a decent café latte up here in the North West of England and it’s not been easy. While Sydney seems to be chock full of expert Baristas who can serve up the perfect café lattes at the drop of a hat, many of our British versions don’t seem to quite hit the mark.
My friend’s obsession with her favourite brew highlights for me how important drinks are and how different each of us are in our beverage choices.
We Brits are famous for drinking tea, of which we consume around 165 million cups a day. We also drink a whole lot of coffee – around 70 million cups a day. Those who consider themselves ‘health-conscious’ tend to eschew caffeinated drinks and go for herbal concoctions.
What determines the drinks we choose? Why do some like their coffee black without any extras and others prefer it with sugar and milk or cream? Why do some people prefer soothing chamomile and others stimulating peppermint?
Think before you drink?
My parents drank both tea and coffee each day of their lives. When I was young, they always added sugar but on visits to them after I left home I noticed they avoided sugar. When I asked my mother why, she said they were trying to lose weight. These days, for health reasons very few people I know put sugar into their drinks, even when I sometimes suspect they would prefer the taste.
Sometimes our mind predominates when choosing what we eat or drink – in other words, our choices are information-based.
- Perhaps we started avoiding our daily cups of tea because we were told its tannin and caffeine content is detrimental to our health.
- Then we find out that tea is full of friendly antioxidants that are supposed to sweep up any nasty free radicals present in our body and we go back to a guilt-free enjoyment of Britain’s favourite brew.
- We learn about Ayurveda and find that tea is heating and may put our Pitta out of balance, and astringent so may put our Vata out of balance.
- We then find out that adding milk and sugar to our tea helps balance both the heating and astringent effects of tea, but are not so useful for balancing Kapha, which gets on better with tea with no sugar or milk.
Well we got there in the end and can carry on enjoying our daily cuppa, but things can get a little complicated along the way when we only rely our mind to dictate what we drink.
Can you trust your senses?
How on earth did we manage before food scientists, nutritionists and the TV told us what to eat and drink?
Over millions of years of evolution, we have primarily used our sense of smell and taste to determine what was suitable and what was poison and the fact that we humans are still around to worry about what we are consuming means that mostly we got it right.
Ayurveda gives the sense of taste particular emphasis when it comes to choosing what to put in our body and it has incorporated this highly evolved sensory apparatus into its science of food choices. It maintains that one can tell by taste and feel on the tongue which elements of nature are present in a substance and whether our body needs those elements right now.
Digesting the elements of nature
When we eat or drink our senses detect the Rasas (tastes) and Gunas (qualities) that indicate the relative proportions of the Mahabhutas (fundamental element of nature) present in that food or drink.
According to Ayurveda our body and everything we eat and drink is made up of five Mahabhutas. Doshas (governing principles of our physiology) are made from combinations of these Mahabhutas:
|Prithvi (Earth) – structure and solidity||Kapha|
|Jala (Water) – liquidity and flow||Kapha and Pitta|
|Taja (Fire) – transformation and heat||Pitta|
|Vayu (Air) – force and motion||Vata|
|Akasha (Space) – space||Vata|
With the feel of our tongue and our sense of taste, we can detect these elements and tell what effect this will have on our Doshas:
|Taste||Associated Mahabhutas||Effect of the Doshas|
|Sweet||Prithvi and Jala (Earth and Water)||Kapha↑ Pitta↓ Vata↓|
|Sour||Prithvi and Agni (Earth and Fire)||Kapha↑ Pitta↑ Vata↓|
|Salty||Jala and Agni (Water and Fire)||Kapha↑ Pitta↑ Vata↓|
|Pungent||Vayu and Agni (Air and Fire)||Kapha↓ Pitta↑ Vata↑|
|Bitter||Vayu and Akasha (Air and Space)||Kapha↓ Pitta↓ Vata↑|
|Astringent||Vayu and Prithvi (Air and Earth)||Kapha↓ Pitta↓ Vata↑|
When we have a strong desire for sweet tasting drinks we may be low on the earth and water elements that make up Kapha dosha. It may also be that Pitta or Vata is too high (we feel overheated and emotional or anxious and frazzled) and ingesting more of the earth and water elements can help balance this up. Teas that contain herbs such as liquorice, cinnamon and cardamom are not only are health promoting but help supply the sweet taste.
The desire for pungent tasting foods and drinks means the air and fire elements in our body need a boost. Perhaps we feel clogged up, heavy and lethargic because Kapha dosha is out of balance. Stimulating spices such as black pepper and ginger added to our drinks will help.
When we desire the bitter taste we need for more air and space elements (Vata) or we need to balance Kapha or Pitta. Chamomile and peppermint would be a good choice.
Without having to think about it, every day we use our sense of smell and taste to detect what our body may be missing or what may bring it back into balance – it’s instinctual.
What Ayurveda adds is an theorectical framework to understand why our food and drink preferences came about. It can also help get us back into balance if we get into bad eating and drinking habits, by guiding us towards more natural health-promoting alternatives that still satisfy our natural sensory urges.
Maharishi AyurVeda’s beverages
The very first products Maharishi AyurVeda Products offered included Vata, Pitta and Kapha teas, each with herbs and tastes designed to balance our body by bringing their respective Doshas back into balance.
Due to our fast pace of life, Vata dosha goes out of balance most easily. Signs of aggravated Vata include an irregular digestion, gas, constipation, intestinal cramps, poor assimilation, fatigue, difficulty getting to sleep, an overactive mind and anxious thoughts. Irregular lifestyle, autumn and early winter, cold, dry, windy weather and long distance travel provoke Vata imbalance.
Vata Tea is Maharishi AyurVeda’s most popular tea and contains sweet and warming herbs such as liquorice, cardamom, ginger and cinnamon that help soothe an over-active physiology.
As will all such herbal teas, let it infuse for at least five minutes so the full, satisfying flavours come through.
Pitta Tea is a delicious combination of fragrant Rose Petals and refreshing spices, and helps cool you down when you’re feeling intense, over-heated or frustrated. It is an ideal drink during hot summer days, as well as for heated tempers.
Kapha Tea with its stimulating blend of ginger, clove, cardamom, black pepper, turmeric and saffron that perk up body and mind, Kapha Tea is a caffeine-free alternative to coffee that is guaranteed to wake you up. It is great for early mornings or damp, cold days and late winter and spring seasons.
Good Night Tea, has 13 ingredients including Brahmi to help decrease mental agitation and Gotu-Kola to relax and nourish the mind so you feel clear and alert the next morning.
Smooth Cycle Tea provides mind/body support for a smooth menstrual cycle. White Angelica, Hibiscus Flower and Rose Petals help balance hormonal flow. Lodha and Ashoka Bark support the overall balance and interactions of female hormones. Hibiscus Flower, Indian Sarsaparilla and Winter Cherry maintain resistance to stress and balance mind and emotions.
Golden Transition Tea is helps maintain the balance of mind, body and emotions during menopausal changes. Ashoka and Lodha Bark and Sappan Wood support female hormonal flow and balance. Cinnamon and cardamom help maintain optimum calcium absorption. Winter Cherry maintains resistance to stress. Enjoy the delicious natural flavours of Peppermint, Spearmint and Liquorice and use this tea during pre-menopause and post menopause.
Vital Man Tea gives a vitalising boost of freshness for men who live life to the full. If you feel stressed, exhausted and lacking in drive this tea will bring you back up to speed. A combination of Shatavari and Ashwagandha helps to balance reproductive fluid. Raw cane sugar, Ginger, Basil, Cardamom and Nutmeg give this mix a full-bodied and subtly spicy taste
Take it Easy (Peace of Mind) Tea helps balance and calm your mind, emotions, and nerves. According to Ayurvedic texts, the ingredients of this tea help to promote clarity and contentment. Shatavari helps deal with stress. Brahmi and Gotu-Kola help you feel happy and at ease and boost the natural power and skill of the mind. Country Mallow is nourishing for the nerves. Besides the health benefits, you’ll enjoy the delicious natural flavour of Cardamom, Mint, and nine other herbs and spices.
Be Trim Meda Tea has a precise blend of Gymnema and Indian Kino to help balance fat metabolism. This blend also helps decrease sugar cravings. Besides the health benefits, enjoy the delicious natural flavour of cinnamon, liquorice, and eight other herbs and spices.
Digest Plus Tea is a digestive stimulant that has a sharp, spicy, and well-rounded flavour. It can be taken an hour before meals as a digestive stimulant or after heavy or rich meals to help in the digestion of the meal or as a healthy alternative to an antacid. Ginger, Fennel Seeds, Cardamom, Cloves, Cinnamon and Black Pepper stimulate digestion in a gentle way and lend the tea a hot and spicy aroma.
Sniffle Free Tea helps maintain fluid balance and supports resistance to cold. Holy Basil, Liquorice and Marshmallow Flower support the health of the upper respiratory tract. Orris Root, Hyssop and Malabar Nut help maintain fluid balance. Ginger and Mint support the digestive process and provide a great flavour.
Raja’s Cup was once drunk by the kings of India for well-being and vitality and contains Clearing Nut, Coffee Senna, Ashwagandha and Liquorice. Today many people drink it as a caffeine-free alternative to coffee and it comes in sachets or as a loose powder which can be made in a cafetiere or with milk in a pan.
Almond Energy is another fortifying and nourishing beverage. Its 7 ingredients include Almonds, Poppy seeds, Indian Pennywort and Fragrant Screw Pine Nut and it makes a flavoursome bedtime drink with either water or milk and is refreshing in hot weather.
Visit our Beverages page
If you visit the Beverages section of the Maharishi AyurVeda shop you can find details of the benefits and ingredients for every tea. The dosha teas also come in family packs.