If you have a thing for Thai cuisine then you would certainly be familiar with the flavourful galangal! Scientifically named Alpinia galanga, the rhizome is commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine as a spice, especially in Thai, Indonesian, & Malaysian cuisines, and as a herb in traditional medicine practices such as Unani, Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. Also called Thai ginger (no surprises there) the wonderfully flavoured spice is indigenous to India as well and is known as ‘Kulanjan’ in Hindi.
Though this root is uncannily similar to ginger in looks, it is quite different in flavour. Ginger offers a sweet yet spicy taste, whereas galangal is sharper, spicier, and more peppery in flavour.
What’s GOOD about Galangal?
We are excited over this humble looking root because its rich in antioxidants (compounds that protect cells against damaging free radicles thus, help fight disease) especially, polyphenols – a group of antioxidants linked to various health benefits such as improved memory and lower blood sugar levels. Galangal root is also believed to reduce inflammation and pain, as well as fight infections. In Ayurvedic preparations it has been used to treat illnesses such as fever, jaundice, heart ailments, bone disorders, not to mention common cold & flu.
As if we haven’t harped on its beneficial properties enough, we’ll also let you in on an intriguing fact. In the Northeast, galangal is found growing in the wild! If you are wondering why that’s such a big thing, recent research suggests that wild plants contain higher antioxidants and nutritional value than farmed crops. What’s more, they are free from the harmful effects of chemical fertilisers & pesticides. So, that’s one more reason to celebrate all things wild!
And, if that weren’t enough…
We’ll introduce you to a fascinating tree from the Northeast- the wild tea tree or ‘thing pi’ as it’s called by the natives. We are familiar with tea that is cultivated on plantations, but in the forests of Northeast tea is found growing wild on trees without any human intervention. They are of the same variety, Camellia sinensis, as those cultivated in the tea gardens but in the forests they grow ungroomed into tall trees that are more than a century old! These wild tea trees have deep root systems as they remain unpruned thus, they are able to absorb more nutrients & minerals from the rich forest soil. Lest we forget, the forest soil is healthier too as it is free from harmful chemicals and 100% unpolluted!
In the forests, the wild tea trees grow in unison with the diverse flora and fauna. The bio-diverse environment greatly affects the taste of the leaves. Owing to the fact that they grow in a diverse forest eco-system free from harmful cultivation practices, they are far more complex in terms of flavour, more potent and richer in antioxidants than farmed tea.
Wild tea also comes in many varieties – White, Green, Black, Oolong, and smoked- and each variety has its distinct aroma, flavour, and wellness benefits. We’ve already mentioned how rich in antioxidants they are. Coming to other wellness benefits - some of them are good for detox, and aid in digestion, others are known to elevate mood, and some are great for the gut. Some wild teas are wonderful companions on a weight-loss journey, others help in building immunity.
The journey from forest to teacup
We have spoken about two potent ingredients from the wild. You’ll probably be curious to know how they find their way into a teacup! Wild teas have been foraged from the forests by natives since generations. We may find it surprising, but drinking wild tea has been part of the cultural heritage of the local communities in the Northeast. The native tea pickers skilfully forage tea leaves growing in the wild. For this, they have to trek deep into the mountainous forests, locate the wild tea trees, and then climb them to pick the leaves. It’s no ordinary task. It requires them to responsibly pick the leaves – when, how, and how much to pick – so that the wild tea trees are not harmed in any way.
The foraged tea leaves are processed using indigenous techniques which helps retain the whole leaf, its flavour & nutrients. Handcrafting of tea is indeed an art that few tea artisans are skilled in!
Delightful Wild Tea Blends
While wild teas can be enjoyed in their pure form, they are sometimes blended with other potent native ingredients that not only enhances the flavour and complexity of the brew, but also the wellness benefits. Some potent ingredients can be difficult to consume by themselves, but blended with wild tea, they bring wonderful aroma and flavour to the beverage, not to mention the added wellness benefits.
At Beyondarie, our tea artisans experiment with different potent ingredients and flavour profiles to prepare delectable blends that are brimming with aroma, flavour, and goodness! One such blend is of Wild Black Tea with Wild Galangal. The sharp, peppery punch of wild galangal complements the woody undertone of the dark & strong wild black tea. The aroma and flavour of this delicious blend is incomparable, so is the fact that it is good for the gut!