A Spice Quest to India
For me there was no better reason to tour India than to go on a quest to find the purest, most organic, ethically grown herbs and spices in the world.
We need turmeric, and tons of it for our Taka Turmeric beverages.
Only 7% of turmeric grown in India is organically and ethically grown, so we really had to search it out. To travel with the Taka team and journey into this lovely land was one of the highlights of my life. We discovered so much about the ingredients we use in our teas in India.
One of the most valuable realisations was that spices like turmeric come in different grades, and that the taste may vary from bitter to...err, extremely bitter (a lesson we learned the hard way). Also that some varieties of turmeric have higher percetages of curcumin than others.
Real cinnamon, for instance, is called ceylon cinnamon, and most of what we buy on the shelves is cassia, also known as 'fake cinnamon' and a different tree altogether (without the wonderful properties of the real cinnamon)!
Hibiscus subdarriffa, to our surprise, is not the big bush with large petalled multi-coloured flowers that we are all so used to in our mountainous home town of Cape Town. I was rather dismayed to discover a rather spindly and scruffy looking bush not higher than my knee. This is one of my most favorite herbs, and however humble it looks - it packs a mean punch with taste and medicinal benefits!
We also learnt that chilli and pepper come in different strengths, colours and flavours.
This new knowledge was a turning point for our business!
We are so grateful to have learned these lessons, as the taste and quality of our recipes have significantly improved since, and this has catapaulted us into worldwide success with our delicious recipes.
I had researched the benefits of turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, hibiscus, chilli and many more herbs and spices, and was very eager to find the actual sources in this tropical land which yielded the best quality spices and tea in the world.
In Cape Town, I had bought spices from Indian spice stores, supermarket shelves and street sellers. But they had travelled far to get to us, and were not always good quality and never consistent in taste.
I had been experimenting for decades with different synergies of flavours of our favorite herbs and spices, like the super root turmeric, the superflower hibiscus and various other spices. I was determined to get the best combinations of herbs and spices for their various health benefits while also creating fabulous taste sensations.
I have to confess that my patient friends and family had many a heave and a sigh and a twitching of the eye enduring the experimental concoctions I came up with!
This was 20 years ago, when turmeric was little known in the west for its fantastic medicinal benefits and was definitely not trending at coffee bars as a turmeric latte. In fact, it took much persuasion to even get my trusty friends to put it near their lips.
In the old days I simply mixed ground turmeric with a grind of pepper and hot water into a muddy gruel which I expected people to swallow cheerfully. I seem to have been the only gleeful one, and this was only because I knew its health benefits.
There came a moment in this journey when I decided I simply HAD to make these concoctions taste nice, and this took a while indeed.
I had a shelf full of old herbal teas which tasted awful, and I knew all my friends did too! These were past their expiry dates and gathering cobwebs - perhaps the cobwebs themselves had more taste than the teas?
More recently, when I finally got one recipe right and it was hailed as objectively delicious – I was ecstatic. This was the moment when TAKA was born.
My daughter (the TA of TAKA) had joined me in the quest to make tasty, health-enhancing, medicinal, and life-transforming turmeric drinks. We started our quest with great enthusiasm and faith, and two years later are thrilled to say that our products are globally acclaimed for being just what we intended: healthy AND delicious.
I cannot tell you all our secrets, but in a nutshell the synergy is the perfect combination of turmeric, black pepper, coconut and various other spices. These all work together not just for the taste, but for the absorption of the unique action of curcumin, which is fat soluble and is the medicinal ingredient in turmeric that has so many health benefits.
Turmeric is the ingredient in our whole range of beverages. We made a collection of drinks with turmeric in it in so that people who wanted to go to the next level of health would be able to get it in a tasty cup of something that they would actually enjoy.