Green Mango Mint Cooler: aka ‘Aam Panna’

A glass of green mango mint cooler, aam panna.During the summer months when the mango, ripe or otherwise, is king Indians transform the fruit numerous ways. One of the most refreshing results is a cooling aam panna, literally mango water, a lightly spiced celadon green concoction. Some homemade recipes add spices such as roasted cumin or black salt. I have decided to omit the spices as I didn’t expect my kids to like them and simply added some fresh mint. For a late afternoon adult version a shot of dark rum brings a welcomed zing.

The hard unripe mangoes need to be cooked, either boiled or roasted. Roasting is preferred as the flavour is more intense and they become a bit sweeter, evidenced by the slight caramel residue left on the baking sheet by the natural juices.

You may feel that cooking 1kg of green mango may be too much but it is worthwhile as it will save time when you want to make a quick drink. Once the fruit is cooked, puree the flesh on its own and put half of it in a container in the freezer for future use. Then simply follow the half recipe at the end.

Green Mango Mint Cooler: aka ‘Aam Panna’
Serves: Makes 6 cups
  • 1 kg green mangoes (about 3 mangoes)
  • ½ cup mint leaves (1 or 2 bunches depending on size)
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 litre cold water
  • 1 cup ice
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/ 180C.
  2. Place the green mangoes on a baking sheet and into the oven.
  3. Roast the mangoes for 15 minutes and then turn them over and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes or until a dull green colour and fully soft when touched. Remove from the oven and cool to the touch.
  4. Alternatively, place the green mangoes in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the mangoes are fully soft when touched. Using a large spoon or tongs remove from water to a plate and let cool.
  5. Cut the mangoes in half and use a spoon to scoop out all of the flesh off the skin and the pit.
  6. Place the flesh in a blender along with the rest of the other ingredients. Blend for 1 to 2 minutes depending on how well your machine blends.
  7. Use a spoon to check to see if the mix is fibrous or not. If it is still somewhat fibrous pass it through a fine mesh strainer that has been placed over a larger bowl.
  8. Pour into a pitcher and chill in the fridge. Keeps for several days refrigerated.
Half Recipe
1 ¼ cup cooked, pureed green mango pulp
¼ cup mint leaves
3 tablespoons water
2 cups cold water
½ cup ice


Talking Tea With The Chaiwallahs of India

Chaiwallah vendor at INA Market in New Delhi, India

A chaiwallah at INA market in New Delhi

At first I resisted joining and partaking in social media. I did not fully appreciate and understand how great it could be to connect people, especially those with common interests. But this is how I first learned about The Chaiwallahs of India, a website run by Resham Gellatly and Zach Marks. Jeff Koehler, who is writing a book about the world’s greatest tea that is found in Darjeeling, mentioned them in a tweet. I started to follow their informative tweets as they travelled India researching the culture that surrounds the warming spiced tea, known as chai and the tea stall and tea brewers/ sellers, known as chaiwallahs. I was able to connect with them in Mumbai on my recent trip to India. Click here to see our video conversation and to learn more about their very interesting research.

Single Estate Indian Coffee Is Brewing Stronger

Matt Chitharanjan of Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters

I must confess. I am not, never have been, a coffee drinker. I think it mainly has to do with the first couple of times I tried it I found it much too bitter. I was worried that I would be adding spoonfuls of sugar to make it palatable for myself. When I was living in Delhi coffee drinking friends either brought their preferred brand with them or drank an Indian coffee called Monsoon Malabar. A year before we left Delhi the British coffee chain, Costa Coffee, was slowly entering the market. Sure there was already Café Coffee Day and Barista but coffee connoisseurs were not satisfied. Many of them enjoyed partaking in the south Indian filter coffee experience, mainly because of the ambiance and atmosphere of the traditional gathering spots called India Coffee Houses. I would regularly hear comments about how they could not get used to the taste due to the addition of chicory, specifically the baked and ground roots, to the coffee blend.Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters Logo

A year ago, Matt Chitharanjan and his wife Namrata Asthana launched Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters, with the goal of promoting single estate Arabica beans grown, roasted and drunk in India. Click here to see my video interview with Matt on Good Food Revolution.



Summer is Here: Mango and Rhubarb Lassis

Box of Alphonso Mangoes from IndiaRipe, deep orange Indian Alphonso MangoesTwo of my favourite fruits are currently in season albeit on different continents. In India, mangoes currently reign supreme, only rivalled by Bihari litchis at their peak. In Canada, glorious pink hued rhubarb is taking over neglected back corners of home gardens. I made my weekly visit to our neighbourhood Indian grocer to pick up a case of sweet Alphonso mangoes direct from Mumbai and to the Landsdowne Farmer’s Market in Ottawa for rhubarb and ripe ruby red Ottawa Valley strawberries. With the weather being hot and humid cooling afternoon drinks is a necessity. Here are two quick and easy lassi recipes; one sweet from the nectar of mangoes and the other shouting ‘summer is here’ with its refreshing sour and sweet flavour and gorgeous pink hue.

Mango Lassi
Serves: 2
  • 1 Alphonso mango *see note*
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1¼ cup milk or water
  • ½ cup ice
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  1. Peel, pit and chop the mango. Place in blender with yogurt, milk or water, ice and sugar. Blend to a puree. Serve as is or over ice.
When I cannot get fresh Alphonso mangoes I often substitute canned Alphonso mango puree. I like to freeze the puree in smaller ½ cup or 1 cup quantities for easy access when needed.

Rhubarb Strawberry Lassi
Serves: 4
  • 1 cup rhubarb, chopped
  • 1 cup strawberries, washed, hulled and roughly chopped
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 2 cup milk or water
  • 1 cup ice
  1. Place chopped rhubarb and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. As the rhubarb heats up some juice will be released. Cook for about five minutes, occasionally stirring. Add the strawberries and cook for another few minutes. Set aside and let cool. Place rhubarb/strawberry mixture in blender with yogurt, milk or water, ice and sugar. Blend to a puree. Serve as is or over ice.
Substitions: If strawberries are not available, raspberries, blackberries or blueberries can also be substituted. If using raspberries you may want to puree the fruit mix first then pass it through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds. If seeds do not bother you proceed as described above.


Makaibari Tea Estate

Tea Flushes for Tasting

Some tastes stay with you forever. The moment the warm amber liquid slid from the edge of a hand shaped teacup, onto my lips, and slowly swished around in my mouth, I knew I had tasted something special. I put the teacup down, picked up the small gold sticker and read ‘First Flush 2005 Makaibari Tea Estates, Darjeeling’. The loose-leaf tea, picked several months earlier, was a gift from a dinner guest the night before. I had drunk loose-leaf tea before but it was generally an herbal mixture. My go to comfort tea, and still is, was Twining’s Earl Grey. But there was something unique with this liquid brew. All at once, there was delicacy and depth; a natural sweetness with a touch of bitterness; an earthiness that reminded me of walking over a bed of fallen leaves during mid autumn in Gatineau park. I had not tasted a tea whose flavour was as well rounded as this one.
The Makaibari First Flush instantly became my special afternoon pick me up tea. A year later I also started using Makaibari’s Apoorva tips when making chai. I learned that Makaibari followed biodynamic and permaculture principles. I was intrigued and wanted to learn more by visiting the tea estate. This was finally possible in March 2010 when I made the journey through the winding roads of the Himalayas eventually reaching Kurseong, just south of the hill station of Darjeeling.

Entry Sign to Makaibari


Rajah Checks the tea buds




Makaibari is believed to be the oldest tea estate in Darjeeling having been established in 1859. Four successive generations of the Banerjee family have run the estate with its current owner, the eccentric and entertaining Rajah, having become a pioneer and champion in the cultivation of organic tea in Darjeeling. Even during the late 1970s Rajah started to see the effects that soil erosion was having on his own and other various tea estates that dot the hills of Darjeeling. He slowly started to implement permaculture practices and over the following decade slowly adopted organic agriculture towards the management of the tea gardens becoming the first organic tea plantation in India in 1986 (and later on the first to have their teas certified Fair Trade). During the 1980s he saw how these changes were producing beneficial effects on the taste of the tea and the health of his plants. But he wanted push things even further and by 1991 had transformed the estate into a fully biodynamic system, where the soil fertility, plant growth, and livestock are all interrelated.

Two Tea Pickers


steep slopes at MakaibariTea pickers on estate

These holistic and alternative practices are also carried over to the 7 village communities, whose many habitants work for Makaibari, spread around the plantation. A joint body of elected members, primarily women, have bi-monthly meetings to cover development issues and how funds for the community should be spent. Improved sanitation, retirement stipends and life long health care became immediate priorities. There are 3 small nurseries and 3 primary schools for 3-10 year olds on the estate. Teenagers go to other nearby villages for high school. I spent several days at the plantation and stayed in the home of a family living in one of the villages. Only the husband worked in the main factory building. His parents had both worked in the tea estate – his father in the factory and mother as a picker. He made enough money now, through his work and the homestay program, that his wife did not need to take on a job outside the home. His two children were in college and had no intentions of working for Makaibari. They did however, intend to return to the area and look for more professional office jobs.

School at Makaibari


Tea Picker PortraitHaving Lunch at Makaibari

Harvesting and packaging tea requires about ninety percent manual labour. I spent several days following the tea pickers, predominantly women of Gurkha or Nepali background, up and down the steep slopes of the tea garden. They are strong women doing very laborious, back break work. It is no wonder that their children do not want to follow in their footsteps. The social and educational investments Makaibari has contributed to the communities have been successful in each successive generation getting better jobs on or off the estate.

Picking Tea LeavesSmile at MakaibariTaking A BreakRajah inspecting tea leavesDrying Tea LeavesSorting Tea Leaves


Rajah Explains Teas

My store of Makaibari tea is currently limited making each brew that more special. When I do get the chance to savour the delicious nectar I am reminded of the special people and communities responsible for nurturing the tea estate’s ecosystem.