As you prepare to break the Yom Kippur fast with bagels and spreads, crisp anise-studded biscuits or a bite of flaky, sweet babka, consider your break-fast beverage of choice. If you’re anything like me, after a sustained period of no eating or drinking, you’ll likely be ready to consume the first thing that is offered to you, especially if it’s packed with sugar and caffeine. Why not try something a little more soothing, flavored with cardamom, fennel and lemon balm, to ease your way into that buffet table loaded with goodies?
Cardamom, a slightly sweet and very aromatic spice related to ginger and native to India, often finds its way into break-fast recipes, especially cookies and pastries. The spice is also used in many savory applications, like the Turkish spice blend baharat and the Yemenite blend hawaij. In liquid form, cardamom is likely most widely known in chai, the deliciously sweet and milky Indian tea also flavored with peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon and ginger.
Not only versatile, cardamom also has a unique health benefit: it helps relieve nausea and sensitive stomachs, making it a natural choice to calm your body after Yom Kippur.
Another stomach-soothing spice common in break-the-fast recipes is fennel seed. These slightly sweet, licorice-flavored seeds from the Mediterranean are especially good at fighting poor digestion or bloating.
The use of the whole fennel plant as a medicine goes way, way back to ancient times; Pliny the Elder lists at least 22 remedies featuring fennel. And as English herbalist John Gerard so eloquently stated in his sixteenth-century Great Herball: “Fennel seede drunke assuageth the paine of the stomache, and the wambling of the same, or desire to vomite, and breaketh winde.” Into our tea it goeth.
To round out this spice-based tea, we’ll turn finally to the herbs lemon balm and lemon verbena. Related to mint and native to the Mediterranean, I like lemon balm because I happen to have it growing on my porch, but you can also use the oft-praised lemon verbena, hailing from South America and widely revered for its bright lemon flavor. Fresh or dry, lemon balm and verbena are calming and (surprise!) good for digestion. The herbs are also a good alternative to caffeinated tea or coffee after your fast, as they won’t leave you jittery.
After a quick a simmer and a touch of something sweet like honey to round out the flavors, your break-the-fast tea is complete. Now go tackle that buffet.