Chai This Instead

Teacup, Digitized Photograph - ©R. Koleilat, 2007

Another idea for a simple, friendly present for the holiday - something you can prepare quickly, but will show that you care. And what is better than a warm cup of tea to share with a friend? How about a cup of Chai, this sweet and fragrant tea specialty from India? You definitely don't want to buy that from a store. For one, prepackaged tea bags are ridiculously overpriced, and they don't hold a candle to freshly made and brewed Chai. I know that because my dear friend Sonia taught me how to make the real thing - and I have been addicted ever since.

Here's what you need - you can get most or all of it from the bulk food store, any Southeast Asian or Middle Eastern food store, or even a good supermarket:

- Pick your gift container first, to determine how much tea you need to fill it with. A plain old glass jar, decorated with a personalized label and some raffia is usually my choice, but you can also fill a bag with the Chai mixture and pop it inside a pretty mug or teapot (2 gifts in one, yay!)

- Loose tea leaves, like Orange Pekoe, or Ceylon, enough to fill your chosen container.

- Loose Earl Grey tea leaves, about 1/4 of the amount of the tea above (you don't have to, since this is not authentic but I found it enhances the taste)

- Spices: I choose to add one stick of cinnamon, 5-6 cardamom pods, 4-5 cloves, a sprinkling of allspice berries and about 1/8 spoon of ginger (this is a very mild-tasting variation enough for about an 12-ounce jar of tea, you can add more spices to your taste)

Mix all of the above in the jar, and add this tea-making how-to:

Fill small pot with 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Spoon in one heaping tablespoon of Chai mixture, and turn off the heat. Let it steep for at least five minutes, and strain into teapot. Add lots of sugar and hot milk, find a comfy spot and enjoy.

Now this is definitely not the authentic method of making Chai - but I'm trying to save you from a caffeine attack! Here's how you can come close to the real deal - a lot more delicious, but too much for me to handle.

Fill small pot with 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower heat, add a heaping tablespoon of tea, 1/4 stick cinnamon, two cardamom pods, 2 cloves, ginger and allspice to taste (optional), a lot more sugar than you would normally have in one day, and simmer gently for about 10 minutes. Add very hot milk and simmer a couple of minutes more. Strain and serve. But if you don't sleep for two days after that, don't come knockin' - I did warn you!

(The above quantities assume you are sharing this lovely cuppa with a friend)


dianeclancy said...

Hi Rima,

First to let you know, in my reader I saw the cuppa tea ... but on the site I don't.

Great idea .. if I stop by, will you make me a cup ... oh right, we live a long ways away ... maybe we can all get together and have some tea!

Thank you!
~ Diane Clancy

Frances said...

thanks for that lovely post. I love spiced tea - well I love any strong tea, really and light China tea and green tea - and Turkish mint tea and apple tea - Tea - Yay!

Andi said...

I don't even buy the teabags -- I just go to Starbucks. But your recipe sounds so lovely I just might have to try it!

Neda said...

Is there a way not to make it sit too long? Love the idea but I don't like strong tea :)

Bobbie said...

Lovely image, Rima! Makes me want to join you for tea. I do love tea, all kinds of tea, plain tea, lemon tea, milk tea, and all the myriad of tea flavors too. I totally agree about the tea bags..what a devilish invention they are filled with the cheapest tea they can find. I've not had cardamom in tea but now I can't wait to try it. It would be a nice gift to receive.

Sweet Irene said...

Both methods sound delicious, but I would go with the first one, although I have not had milk in my tea since I was a little girl. Is this a real authentic Indian way to make tea or is there a British influence in this as well? I am very much hooked on Rooibos tea right now with two spoons of sugar. It is steeped in a pot and comes from South Africa and has no caffeine. It does make you pee a lot though.

Fawzan Barrage said...

Ummmm. When do we get to try this tea at home? Of course I am liable to go into shock from the cinnamon, but we can try the other spices!?

Debi said...

LOL. Poor Zan. Do give that stinky ol' boy a cup a tea, love!

I can't remember where, but I had chai somewhere, loved it, and for the life of me couldn't remember what it was called or how to find it. And Voila! Rima to the rescue with her tried-and-true recipe. I am going to try this for sure.

The only problem is the cardamom pods. It's not a common spice in the States. I have been hoarding a little bitty spice jar of it that I got in Lebanon. And it's ground! Will that work as well, do you think, O Bestow-er of Chai?

Rima said...

Glad to see there are tea drinkers among you!

Andi: Starbucks!! What happened to Tim's?

Neda: Let it steep as long as you like - remember, you're not brewing it Indian-style! so you'll get a reasonably spiced taste, but not too overwhelming

Bobbie: I do buy some teas in bags, for convenience - I find British brands to be the best, like PG Tips and Twinings and Ty Phoo for decaf. Frances?

Irene: I've never tried Roobois, although it is quite popular... but I don't have a recipe for that one :-)

Zan the Man: you know that I only make this tea when I have my friends over, because of the cinnamon... I don't know if it would work without it, I should try.

Debi: I agree, it is hard to find cardamom sometimes - unless you can find a Middle Eastern grocery. I'm sure the powdered stuff would work, but I would use a tiny pinch, since it's really strong smelling. After all, I'm being a bit creative with my recipe - adding earl grey and powdered ginger - so I'd say take a whiff of all those spices you have in your pantry and pick the ones you think would be interesting to try... then tell us about it, hehe

Maybe I should turn this blog into a cooking blog - this is the most comments and interest I've gotten lately!

Jin said...

dear Rima,je n'écris pas beaucoup dernièrement mais je ne manque pas d'entrer chez toi de temps en temps pour prendre ce petit café chaud du matin. j'admire toujours tes idées créatives et généreuses, et j'ai beaucoup aimé les petites pastilles de verre colorées.

je te souhaite de préparer et passer un fantastique Noël en famille. une grosse bise rouge et vert sapin!

Debi said...

I tried it! See my blog for a bonus post.