With Thanksgiving round the corner, cold weather has set in. This morning we had temps in the 20s and even though it was a Saturday, our local Starbucks was bustling with people ordering Pumpkin Spice Latte or Chai Latte. Since I am Indian, tea literally runs in my veins but unlike most Indians, I prefer to have black loose leaf teas (preferably Darjeeling) that I brew in a teapot for 5-7 minutes – the whole process is cumbersome but that is how I have always made my tea and at this age I am not likely to change that. My friends and family make fun of me and tell me that I am a tea-snob because I don’t like the ubiquitous Indian-style Chai where lots of spices, fresh ginger, loose tea leaves and milk and slow simmered and then poured through a sieve to make what in the US has come to be known as Chai-Tea-Latte. In India, you can find small tea stalls that serve Chai at almost every street corner and almost every one of these little stalls (more like temporary shacks with a few dilapidated looking benches around them) has at any given time a few customers standing around and sipping their tea through small transparent glasses. This tea is probably the one thing in India that cuts across every economic class – it is the one thing that brings everyone together!
Personally, I like the taste of tea without any spices added to it – which is why I brew my tea with plain hot water and nothing else. Even though I don’t like to drink it, I do know how to make the ever-so-popular chai and after repeated requests from the recipe for “Chai-tea”, I am finally going to give in and post this it.
Every family and every tea stall in India must have its own variations on how they make their chai (most add fresh ginger, green cardamom, cinnamon, tea leaves, water, milk and sugar), I make mine with a little twist – I like to add fennel seeds because they give the tea a mild licorice flavor). I also add a couple of cloves and sometimes even a star anise. You can experiment with various kinds of spices and see which ones you’d like to add or remove from this recipe. The proportions that I have given below make a strong spicy chai and if you’d like to have a slightly milder flavor, cut back on the quantities of ingredients mentioned below.
1. 4-5 cups of water
2. 1 cup of milk
3. Sugar to taste
4. 1 stick of cinnamon
5. 2-3 small green cardamom pods
6. 2 cloves
7. 1 star anise
8. 1 nub of ginger (about ½ inch long)
9. 1-2 tablespoons of fennel seeds
10. 3-4 teaspoons of loose tea leaves or 3 black teabags
1. Pour the milk and water in a large saucepan and heat it at low heat.