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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

Process:
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.

Notes:
- 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

Process:
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!

Notes:
- 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.