The 2 Ingredients That Transformed My Mornings

April 11, 2018

Every morning, after the daily tussle of unwinding body from sheets and the inevitable minute or two on my phone, I dazedly make the few-step journey to the kitchen. Half conscious, in the way that coffee addicts head for the machine as if magnetically propelled, I open the cabinet and then the freezer. I collect a mug, usually one of my favorite brightly-hued ones. From the chill above the fridge, I retrieve a tea bag of my own creation, filled with grated ginger and turmeric root. The iciness shocks my sluggish fingers as I drop it into the mug, start the kettle, and slice open a lemon. Using my hands or a citrus squeezer, in goes the juice of half a lemon. Once the water reaches the temperature of hot but still chuggable, I fill the mug and watch it bloom into sunshine.

Perhaps I drink it in one or two gulps, standing at the kitchen counter, or maybe I bring it into the bedroom as I pick out my clothes. On mornings when I’m writing at home, it keeps me company at the hybrid kitchen-dining-landing-work table, as I punctuate my key clacking with sips of the bracing, acidic brew. On the occasions where life has been too hectic and I haven’t had the time to pre-portion the turmeric and ginger, or get to the store to buy them, I’ll just have the lemon water by itself, feeling the zingy warmness slide down my throat, waking up my insides.

The older I get, the more I crave routine. In my teens and early 20s, structure always seemed like a bad word and the idea of routine a bore. But now as I enter my 30s, I know, especially in a life as intense and frenetic as one lived in New York City, daily rituals are essential for me. Self-care has become a buzzword of late, and there are blogs and companies devoted to the concept. Although I enjoy reading about multi-step beauty practices and fitness regimes, my impatience and lack of athleticism make me a poor candidate for anything more than one to two steps. But when it comes to nourishing myself, I will go great lengths—fantasizing about recipes in advance, chopping, dicing, and braising for my own pleasure.

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My ginger-turmeric “tea” with lemon is a daily ritual that benefits both my mind and body. The dreamy state of squeezing the juice into the cup, of that first brightening, awakening gulp, of the knowledge that each day will begin in the same way. The hour that I spend preparing the homemade tea bags in advance, grating the turmeric and ginger, stuffing it all into the muslin sachets. These things give me comfort.

Left: Grated ginger & turmeric, before the deep freeze. / Right: Sachets ready for service. Photo by Leah Bhabha

As for the impact on my body, it really has made a difference in my digestion. Without being too graphic, I increasingly found my stomach out of whack from travel, tension, and eating out. After adding the soothing properties of ginger, the anti-inflammatory ones of turmeric, and the cleansing ones of lemon, I found a huge improvement in the state of my stomach. The weeks where I am away from home, I notice a marked change in my digestion. I also find the concoction to be a relief during periods of overindulgence, especially around the holidays when I find myself eating and drinking more than usual.

I've been starting my mornings with some version of this for the last few years. This ritual started with my mother, who follows a similar routine but instead puts her turmeric and ginger through a garlic press daily. I began with just lemon juice and warm water in the mornings. It wasn't until I visited my brother in Los Angeles, and saw his enhanced preparation of the concoction—the addition of earthy turmeric and piquant ginger to the mix—that I followed suit.

How to make it yourself? It’s as easy as using the food processor to grind up the turmeric and ginger before freezing them on a tray (lightly scoring them for uniform portions, as in the photo above), and filling up little muslin sachets (here are the ones I use) with a spoonful of the frozen grated mix. I would also say the ratio doesn't matter too much—it's just how pungent you'd like it. I store them in the freezer and pull one out every morning. I don’t steep it per se; I just drink the water with the tea bag in!

And if you’re out of fresh ginger and turmeric root, I’ve also used dried powder forms of each to great success; I’d say about a 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger and a 1/4 teaspoon of ground turmeric for a mug of warm water is a good place to start.

Do you have a morning ritual? Share it with us below.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Annada Rathi
    Annada Rathi
  • 70&holding
  • Rani Batra
    Rani Batra
  • janice
  • Karen Fredericks
    Karen Fredericks
Leah is a food writer living and working in New York. She loves dumplings, old school R&B and anything pickled.


Annada R. April 16, 2018
I love your writing style, Leah! You just created your morning in front of my eyes as I struggle to begin my day and clear the fogginess. After reading your column, it just popped into my head, that maybe, just maybe, I can start thinking of giving up my morning coffee and have a ginger, lemon and honey tea that I drink occasionally.
70&holding April 12, 2018
I have read all of your comments. I believe what I read in other sites since this, new idea hit pepper enhances the flavor of turmeric! I have not found one site that suggests butter/oil, GAG!! I did add the black pepper, first time I made it. About chocked myself, purple!! I am continuing to make what I like, and, what helps to, warm and relax me before bed!! I hope your way(s) do the same for you! Thanx again, to all of you for your comments!! Happy Dreams!!!raf
Rani B. April 12, 2018
Echoing Janice’s comment, I have also read that turmeric needs to be consumed with black pepper and a fat ( ghee, butter, coconut oil) to be effective as an anti-inflammatory agent.
janice April 12, 2018
Please double check me, but I recently read that Turmeric used as an anti-inflamatory, will only get the full benefit if it is incorporated with Black Peppercorns or ground pepper. If it is not used with pepper it does not work as an anti-inflamatory and you are basically not gettting the benefits you are seeking.
70&holding April 11, 2018
I do, tumeric cinnamon and clove in very warm frothy Soy Milk, at night! Sorry, this granny still needs her morning coffee! I truly enjoy the taste of, good black coffee! I also enjoy the, warm fuzzy memories of, coffee with my Father! I no longer drink as much, or, I am up several time a night! The warm soy drink is filling, and, if I feel the need for sweet, a drop of honey does the trick! This is also good cold, with a dollop of soygurt, then Ninja!
Beautiful color, smooth and yummy!!raf
Karen F. April 11, 2018
I will most definitely give this a whirl...
rachel5453 April 11, 2018
wow! I have to try this... wonder if I know anyone with a cool food processor I can borrow!!