For the past year, I had a 4:00 a.m. Holy Hour every other Friday at my church. Besides knowing I was going to spend time with Jesus in the flesh, knowing I would get a big cup of coffee when I jumped out of bed motivated me to go!
As funny as that is, I am motivated to head into prayer when I have a cup of comfort in my hand, whether that’s a simple black coffee or herbal tea. I even take a travel mug with me to the chapel. I like to think the Lord appreciates how comfortable I can be in his presence, just like a conversation with my dearest friend. No disrespect at all.
Fall mornings always call for a hot treat in my book. What motivates you to head into prayer in these more chilly and festive months?
As the leaves continue to cover the ground, here are some ideas to get you going in the morning as you start your day with the Lord.
Matcha Green Tea
I first discovered green tea (or “tè verde” as the Italians say) when I lived in Rome. I found a Gelateria that had Green Tea Gelato. I couldn’t get enough of it. So, when I moved home and discovered coffee shops have Green Tea Frappuccinos and Lattes, I was a happy camper. Now that I can make the Green Tea Latte at home, well, let’s just say I have to check myself and make sure I don’t drink it so much that it’s no longer an early morning treat!
- One heaped teaspoon matcha powder
- 3/4 cup milk of your choice
- 1/4 cup hot water
- Honey to sweeten (or agave)
Heat the milk in a pan, bringing it to a simmer. Froth the milk using a whisk or milk frother. Meanwhile, boil the water then let it sit and cool for a few minutes (it’s essential not to use boiling water as this can harm the flavor of the tea). In a mug, mix the water with the matcha powder until it has dissolved. Slowly add the milk to the mug and stir. If you want to sweeten your latte, add a little honey or agave now.
Café Cortado (My favorite!)
I discovered the cortado at Foster’s, my favorite coffee shop in Owosso, Michigan. While their coffee is top-notch, their mission is even better: to foster community through coffee. They know we are made for community, and they are doing their part to encourage it while providing excellent coffee like the cortado (which is all the rage and happens to be my current favorite hot coffee drink). So, while it’s possibly a fad, it’s a good fad, and this creamy little drink will wake you up for your early morning chats with the Lord.
Pour the milk into a stainless steel pitcher. Place the pitcher under the steam wand, with the wand touching the bottom of the pitcher. Turn the steam wand on, and move it to just below the milk’s surface. Heat until it is steamed, but not foamy. 2% milk is easier to steam than whole milk but will give a richer flavor than skim milk. Pour warm, prepared espresso into the glass. Add 1 to 2 ounces of steamed milk to the espresso. Use more milk for a creamier, less bitter flavor. Lastly, top off the Cortado with a small amount of milk foam.
Warm Water with Lemon
Growing up, I knew an Italian-American woman who didn’t start her day with coffee, but warm water with lemon. At the time, I thought it was a boring choice. But, little did I know all of the health benefits behind it, including reducing inflammation. After drinking it for a few mornings, your palate begins to appreciate the simplicity. A great morning choice, especially if you’re detoxing, getting well from a sickness, or fasting for an intention or two.
- Organic lemon with a little give to it
- Cutting board
- Room-temperature water
- Mug or water bottle
Grab a fresh lemon with a little give to it. (Roll it against the cutting board if you need to break it down a bit.) Avoid lemons that are too hard, because they’re probably not ripe enough to release all the healthy juices. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the entire thing into a bowl to pluck the seeds out when you’re done. Pour the juice into a 16-ounce water bottle.
The temperature of your water matters, so if you’re using water from your refrigerator, pour it into a microwave-safe glass and nuke it for five to ten seconds to bring it up to room temperature. Don’t have a microwave? Heat a kettle and let it cool down before you pour. Why is this important? Temperature can alter the molecular structure of the lemon juice and compromise the benefits you’d otherwise receive. Pour the lemon juice into your bottle and top it with enough room-temperature water to fill the bottle. Cap it, give it a shake, sip, and enjoy.
I like to think Saint Mother Teresa would have preferred chai tea. After all, it’s a very popular drink in Calcutta, India. In Calcutta, though, they drink it out of clay cups. Maybe we would do well to start drinking our morning drinks out of clay cups. If it helps us on the road to holiness too, then absolutely!
Another sister, my actual blood sister, often gifts me chai tea: when we treat one another to a drink on birthdays and at Christmas. If I choose chai tea for my morning cup of comfort, you know these two sisters will be close to my heart in prayer. Who do you always hold close in prayer?
- 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
- 8 whole cloves
- 7 – 8 cardamom pods
- 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- 1 inch of peeled and sliced fresh ginger
- 3 – 4 teaspoons of loose-leaf black tea (or 4 – 5 tea bags)
- 1 cup of milk (milk of choice)
- Honey, to taste
- Optional: 2 – 3 saffron threads per cup
Gently crush the black peppercorns, whole cloves, and cardamom pods. Transfer the ingredients to a medium saucepan and add cinnamon and ginger. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pot and reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove water from heat and add black tea to steep for 6-7 minutes, then strain. Fill a mug with 2/3 of tea and 1/3 of milk (or dairy-free alternative). Add a teaspoon of honey or to taste! It’s optional but you may wish to top each mug with a few threads of saffron for more flavor.
Italian Hot Chocolate
When I describe Italian hot chocolate or “cioccolato caldo,” the first thing I always say is that it tastes like pudding. It’s much thicker than what we’re used to as Americans. There’s a thickness to it because of the corn flour. I had my first cup of Italian hot chocolate walking down a side street near Piazza della Madonna Dei Monti in Rome.
Saint Benedict Joseph Labre is entombed right across the road in the church Santa Maria dei Monti. So, if I choose Italian hot chocolate for morning prayer, I will be sure to remember to ask for Saint Benedict’s intercession. Who will you ask to intercede for you as you pray today?
- Whole or semi-skimmed milk
- Unsweetened cocoa powder
- Organic dark chocolate (70% high-quality)
- White sugar
- Corn Flour
Whisk corn flour, cocoa, and sugar in a small pot, then pour the warm milk into the pot. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat, often whisking to avoid lumps. Bring the mixture almost to a light boil, then reduce the heat to low and fold in the chopped chocolate. Whisk the drinking chocolate until the melted chocolate combines with the other ingredients, and it reaches a creamy and dense texture, adding more sugar if you like it sweeter. Divide it among two cups, top with freshly whipped double cream, and serve.
Irish Breakfast Tea
We all know that tea is a thing for the English, but did you know tea is also an important part of the Irish culture?
My mother often had a pot of Irish tea in her home office when I was younger. She would let me have her last couple of sips. It was my favorite because the sugar was at the bottom of the cup!
If you ever make your way to that “dear land across the Irish Sea,” you will experience for yourself that tea time in that land of “Saints and Sinners” is quite the staple and will tide you over for dinner, if you had your Irish breakfast earlier in the day that is.
Integrating Irish tea into your American day-to-day can be as simple as switching your morning coffee to Irish breakfast tea. Or, treat yourself to traditional tea time at 11:00 am, between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m., or high tea at 6:00 p.m.
Treat it like the treat it is. As you wake up to the chilly fall or winter morning, serve yourself Irish tea in a pot with cream, milk, sugar, or maybe lemon and honey. Be sure to have a scone with your tea too. That will make the experience all the more unique, and you’ll have a full belly going into prayer so that you won’t be distracted by hunger pains. Let the treat leave an impression to give thanks to God for the yumminess passed down from the Irish (and pray for all of our loved ones who have gone before us. Oh, how important it is that we pray for the poor souls in purgatory.).
- Loose-leaf Irish Breakfast Tea or Tea Bags
- Cream, milk, sugar, or maybe lemon and honey
First, fill a kettle with water. Heat on the stovetop and bring to a boil. If you’ll be serving yourself or others tea from a teapot, add some boiled water to the pot to heat it and discard it. Add one teaspoon of fresh loose leaf tea per cup you desire or per person plus one to the pot. Top the teapot with boiling water from the kettle. Steep for 3 to 4 minutes.
Fill 1/3 of the teacup with milk or cream. When making a pot of tea instead of a cup, add the milk and sugar to a heated pot first. Pour the hot Irish breakfast tea, steeped no longer than five minutes, to each cup or teapot. If using loose leaf tea, pour the tea through a tea strainer into the teacup containing milk, and sweeten to your liking.
Hot Pumpkin Apple Cider
Hot Apple Cider is the epitome of fall. However, my sister might debate me on that. Coffee with pumpkin creamer would be her fall drink. So why not combine the two favorites because both apple and pumpkin tastes connect with so many autumn memories. Especially hayrides, apple picking, pumpkin carving, bonfires, and all of the typical fall festivities.
What will we do this year without hayrides? We’ll have to use it to heat an extra cup of Hot Pumpkin Apple Cider for morning prayer and maybe even put in a thermos if you go out for a Rosary walk.
- 10 medium apples washed and sliced
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- ⅓ cup brown sugar packed (or more to taste)
- 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (lemon)
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
- 2 star anise pods (optional)
Wash, core, and slice apples and place them in the crockpot. Add cinnamon sticks and star anise (if using). Pour 1 cup of water in a large measuring cup. Add pumpkin puree, brown sugar, lemon juice, and pie spice and whisk until well blended. Pour mixture over apples in the crockpot. Add water to the crockpot until apples are completely covered—cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours or high heat for 3-4 hours.
When cook time is up, carefully use a potato masher to crush the cooked apples. Cover and cook for 1 hour on low. Pour mash through a strainer or cheesecloth into a large bowl, releasing as much juice as possible from the crushed fruit with a spoon or squeezing. Discard the solids, as well as the cinnamon sticks. Pour the juice into a pitcher and add sugar to taste if necessary. Refrigerate and enjoy for up to 7 days
I have been skeptical of the bulletproof coffee, but Jen Hansard has me sold on her Rawkstar Coffee. Why? There comes a time for us to detox and find a healthier way of living, including taking our coffee in moderation. So, as you consider what you’ll be cozying up with as you ponder the ways of the Lord, and surrender all to him, make sure to take steps to care for the beautiful body he has given you.
God created us body-soul persons for a reason. So, as you make time for prayer, consider how you can honor his designs by spoiling your body with the best foods and best drinks available to you. All the while, enjoying the not so healthy stuff in moderation so your body can process and root out what it needs to and hold onto the healthy fats to keep you healthy, serving, and seeking joy!
- 1 cup brewed coffee (or Dandy Blend, a caffeine-free alternative)
- 1 teaspoon MCT oil (or coconut oil)
- 2 tablespoons grass-fed butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Grind the coffee at a coarse setting just before brewing to preserve the freshness and flavors and pour it into a French press. Heat water to boiling, then pour it over the grounds. Start a stopwatch. After one minute, take a spoon and gently submerge the grounds that have formed a ‘crust’ on the surface. After four minutes, press down the plunger. Pour the brewed coffee into a glass or metal blender container. Gently add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Drink at the temperature you prefer and enjoy it!