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The Secret Spice of Okinawa

Turmeric tea recipe by SeasonWithSpice.com

The secret to living to 100?

Ask a centenarian in Okinawa*.  The island chain in Japan has long been the home to the highest percentage of centenarians.  Their traditional, healthy lifestyle has kept them free from many of the chronic diseases of aging - cancer, stroke, Alzheimer's, heart disease - that plague the rest of the world.

While genetics, environment, and a close-knit community all are essential factors to their longevity, it is clear that their diet is just as important.

ground turmeric powder, lime, and sugar to make turmeric tea

Low in fat, salt, and sugar, the traditional Okinawan diet consists mostly of vegetables, tropical fruits, and grains, which make up over 70% of their diet by weight.  This includes white rice, sweet potato, goya (bitter melon or bitter gourd), leafy greens, bean sprouts, papaya, mango, pineapple, passionfruit.  They also eat tofu, seaweed, fish and pork.  And of course like the rest of the country, they drink green tea.

But unlike mainland Japan, you may also see Okinawans drinking a tea of an entirely different color.  The rich, yellow color of Turmeric tea.

Turmeric tea recipe by SeasonWithSpice.com

Turmeric – nicknamed the “Spice of Life” in India for its wide use in daily life, and for its many medicinal benefits to help lead a healthy life – is found throughout the tropical regions of Asia, and in the Middle East.  Not in Japan.

Spices are generally not used in Japanese culture, so it is very unusual to find turmeric there.  But even though Okinawa is part of Japan, the archipelago is a significant distance from the mainland, reaching far south into the ancient Spice Route between China, Southeast Asia, and India.  Traders would visit the islands, introducing many tropical fruits, the sweet potato (now a staple food), and the exotic yellow spice.

Instead of adding turmeric to dishes like most cultures, Okinawans decided to make a yellow tea as a way to daily consume its multitude of beneficial properties.  Maybe this spiced tea even added a few more years to their life; a few extra years to enjoy their 100s.

Turmeric tea recipe by SeasonWithSpice.com

Turmeric Tea Recipes

Turmeric Tea with Lime by Season with Spice

What you'll need:
1 cup water - boiled
1/4 tsp of Season with Spice's turmeric powder
1 tsp lime juice (or lemon juice)
1 tsp sugar

1.  Add turmeric powder and boiling water into cup, then stir, and let steep for a few minutes.
2. Add in lime juice and sugar, stir, and cheers to a healthy life.

- You can use fresh turmeric, but it will turn your fingers and your kitchen tools all yellow.  Slice a one inch piece of turmeric, peel, and chop into small pieces.  Bring one cup of water to a boil then turn heat to low, add in chopped turmeric, cover, and let steep for 10 minutes.  Add to cup with sugar and lime juice.
- You can also add in 1/8 tsp of ground ginger for more ‘bite’, and for the additional health benefits.
- Okinawans drink turmeric tea as a way to prevent hangovers (they drink a cup for before drinking alcohol), which probably works since turmeric is known to detoxify the liver. 
Turmeric Tea with Milk & Honey by Season with Spice 

What you'll need:
1 cup milk – heated
1/4 tsp of Season with Spice's turmeric powder
1 tsp honey

1. Heat milk, but do not bring to boil.
2. Add turmeric to cup and pour in milk.  Stir, and then cover and let steep for 5 minutes.
3. Add in honey and enjoy!

- The tea looks like a mango lassi.  Try leaving out the honey, adding a pinch of amchoor (dried mango powder) and sugar to taste.

*Just don’t ask the younger generation in Okinawa how to live to 100. Urbanization and consumerism have taken hold (i.e. McDonalds), obesity rates are on the rise, and Okinawa seems destined for a falling life expectancy rate.


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BiteMyCake said...

this is such an interesting recipe

Tanvi said...

I had some leftover warm milk from some quick chai I made, and I made the latter recipe....delicious! I think I have a new night time comfort/snuggle up on the couch drink! It was so good!

Arudhi@Aboxofkitchen said...

I live in Japan and as you wrote above, turmeric drink is common in Japan to prevent the after party`s hangover. There are many commercialized turmeric drink in cans here and now I`m guessing that the popularity of the drink is all started from the Okinawan tea. I grew up in Indonesia where turmeric is also used in drinks in addition to its use in food. I remembered there is a medicinal/traditional drink uses grated fresh turmeric and and tamarind juice.
Anyway, I`m glad I find these new ways to use turmeric for drinks. Thank you!

seasonwithspice said...

You're on your way to a healthy life to 100...

seasonwithspice said...

Thanks for sharing that Arudhi. I will have to give the fresh turmeric and tamarind mix a try.

Nami | Just One Cookbook said...

Interesting! I've actually never heard of Okinawan drinking turmeric tea, so this post was really educational one for me. I also remember from some documentary show that Okinawan laughs a lot more than people in mainlands and that was the key for the longevity. Okinawa has so many different things that we can't have in the mainland and I'd love to visit there one day... Thank you for the wonderful post about Japan!

Jasanna * said...

You inspired me! go check out my blog post. I just wrote about this. :)


seasonwithspice said...

Thanks Nami, I think I better add laughter to the list of ingredients!

seasonwithspice said...

Hi Jasanna, that's great you're hooked on the tea every night. Those healthy Okinawans are a real inspiration.

Ladiluci said...

Where can I find Amchoor (dried mango powder) Thanks.

seasonwithspice said...

Hi Ladiluci, you can find it at most spice shops. Savory Spice Shop sells it (http://www.savoryspiceshop.com/spices/mangopdr.html). It is commonly used in Indian cooking, so if it's not at the spice section of the grocery store, try looking in the Indian section.

mama-bear-3 said...

I'm so trying this. I love tea green tea chai etc. And I already use turmeric powder for cooking.

Mama-bear-3 said...

I'm so trying this. I love tea green tea chai etc. And I already use turmeric powder for cooking.

how to cook lamb said...

Well done to you, hope more achievement to you. If you are actually conscious about your health and want to keep yourself fit and healthy than keep in mind that good health absolutely begins from a healthy mouth.

Season with Spice said...

Glad to hear you are going to give it a try. A bit of an acquired taste, but you'll love it after a few days

SeasonWithSpice said...

I added a couple of cracked cardamom pods to the milk recipe, it was wonderful!

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