Friday Photo: ‘Holy basil’ seed tea, Cafe di Luna, Harrisburg

Cafe di Luna, August 2012
Cafe di Luna, August 2012

For my boyfriend Jon Hoey, a sales representative for Troegs Brewing Company, Hershey, culture can be as evident in a beverage as it is in food. This means that an international meal can be complimented by much more than regionally-grown tea or a local beer; it can include mango lassies, yogurt drinks, bubble teas, Shandy of Trinidad, bottled juice of aloe vera, and more. For me, I’m constantly surprised by how variant and creative beverages can be; the daughter of a dairy farmer, I am still just shocked to be reminded that people routinely drink more than milk.

Two weeks ago, I asked Cafe di Luna owner Ambreen Esmail what she recommended for a light, hydrating summer drink. She produced to me a cold herbal tea made of basil seeds suspended in a vibrant red syrup that was cut by a single ice cube. Made with pure cane sugar, this drink was extremely sweet and fragrantly perfumed, like bananas, flowers, or incense. According to Ambreem, basil seeds are actually considered to be holy in the Hindu faith and are widely used in Chinese and Thai beverages for their health benefits, which include regulating common digestion issues including nausea and constipation.

The drink was incredibly sweet to my taste, but I loved the rubbery, squeaky seeds, which could be slurped, chewed, or swallowed whole.

Imported bottles of basil seed tea can be also purchased at GM International Grocery on 3918 Jonestown Road as well as other local Asian and Middle Eastern food markets.

Café di Luna
1004 N. 3rd St.
Harrisburg, PA 17102
(717) 233-3010


  1. I love this photo!! And also the drink reminds me of something I tried recently–adding chia seeds to my smoothies. I put them in after blending the fruit and then I let it sit for 15 or 20 minutes so they absorb liquid and get soft/squishy. It’s very good!

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