Tea or Chai is the lifeblood of most Indians (except some parts of South India, where filter coffee is the preferred pick-me-up). Indians drink 30 percent of all tea produced globally and that is something considering that India is the 2nd largest producer and exporter of tea in the world :D
Tea is so ingrained in the Indian culture that it has also crept into popular phraseology. Take ‘Chai-Pani’ for instance. Literally, it means ‘Tea & Water’. But when someone asks you for ‘Chai-Pani’, they are asking you for a small bribe or favor!
Though tea is made in most households twice a day, tea stalls are also a very large part of the street culture. Little tea shacks (called ‘Tapri’ in Mumbai) dot most streets and offer tea and a few snacks to people on the move.
It is a joy to see these chai-wallahs brew tea! Their deftness as they pour tea from one jar to another to froth it up, the little cloth used to strain the tea, the tea poured into little cups or glasses, the ‘half-serve’, called ‘cutting-chai’… it is one of those quintessential Indian experiences :D
I remember a visit to this hilly factory town in north India for work and on the way, I stopped at one of these roadside stalls for tea, which was served in little clay pots. After the tea was drunk, the pots would be thrown into a basket, collected and recycled into pots that would quench some other weary travellers thirst :) So quaint, so delightful!
About 90 percent of Indian households are tea drinkers and everyone loves their cuppa just so! Some like it extra strong, some like it more milky. And some like it with a little something extra, like Adrak Chai (Ginger Tea) or Masala Chai (Spiced Tea).
My daily potion is Adrak Chai, but on special occasions, I love to brew a pot of wonderfully aromatic Masala Chai. Beautiful spices and strong black tea are a gorgeously potent combination.
Instead of making a spice blend, I like to boil the tea with whole spices, just slightly crushed; the fresh spices impart a richness that is simply divine.
So, do yourself a favour, ditch that coffee and make yourself a cup of this lovely concoction! You’ll love it, I promise ;) Oh and stop saying ‘Chai Tea’ anything. It’s like saying ‘Tea Tea’! Total nonsense!
And while you are at it, remember,in India, tea time is not just about tea. There is always something to munch: something savory, something sweet, something to dunk in the tea… Try your hand at some crunchy Goli Baje, delectable Mawa Cakes, fabulous Kothimbir Vadi, gorgeous Vanilla Madeleines or super easy Khari biscuits :D
Here’s the recipe.
1 cup Water
2 teaspoons Black Tea Leaves or 2 Black Tea teabags
2 inch piece Ginger
2 Green Cardamom
1 Black Cardamom
1 Star Anise
2 inch piece Cinnamon
3-4 Black Peppercorns
1 cup Milk
3-4 teaspoon Sugar (as per level of sweetness desired)
In a saucepan, heat the water. Crush the ginger and the spices and add them to the water.
Bring the water to a boil and keep boiling for about 5 minutes, till the spices release their flavor.
Add the tea leaves (or tea bags) and sugar and simmer for another 5 minutes, till the water is dark red or brown in color..
Add milk and bring the concoction to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer the tea for 2-3 minutes.
Strain the tea right into tea cups.
Serve the hot masala chai with snacks (ideas in the post above).