“Chaichaichaichaichaichai!” A cry you will hear quite often when wandering around India. In the streets, in the middle of the night on a train, it’s a bit of a theme tune to your day. Jane has several versions recorded which we like to play and bring a little bit of India into the Beach House (along with some recordings of birds singing in the Himalayas).
This is a steaming beverage that will see you cruise through winter (or if you are heading into summer, makes a great iced tea!) The spices here add magical flavours, highly fragrant and invigorating, along with a whole load of vitamins and minerals that benefit our wintery parts. Of course, if you are vegan, most street-side chai is off the menu. We must settle for a black tea, which can be delicious, but all too often turns out to be a Lipton tea bag in some warm-ish water. This means our homemade chai’s are even more special.
Chai is something that we dearly love over here in the BHK. We make it when we need a little pick me up and a spicy memory of our beloved sub-continent. Chai fuels India. Along with the occasional chapatti/ idli. Chai is normally drank at chai stalls, where chai wallahs work sometimes 24 hours, supplying tiny cups of very sweet, dark tea (‘chai’ is basically Hindi for ‘tea’). You average chai in India does vary, depending on the quality of the chai wallah. Generally the back bone is cardamom and ginger, but there are many additions like clove, black peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon……the list goes on. It really is more of an elixir of life than a simple beverage. I find this in so much of Indian cuisine, a holistic approach that takes into account many things, not just sensational flavours.
Here we have a simple chai recipe that we can all make at home. There is also a rich and delicious Almond Rooibos Chai recipe in ‘Peace & Parsnips’. Something we make when we’re taking it easy on caffeine.
Stay warm and cosy this winter. Drink more chai!
For a more intense chai, crush the ginger and spices in a pestle and mortar or food processor before hand.
Experiment with the quantity of spices, everyone has their favourite chai and no two chai’s are ever equal!
You don’t need to measure the milk/ water exactly, just use the cups that you will be serving the chai in.
Loose leaf black tea can vary greatly in strength. The best and most authentic tea to use for chai is from Assam in North East India. The leaves are normally rolled, meaning they look like tiny black balls and have a rich, malty flavour. If you are using a lighter tea like Darjeeling or Nilgiri, you may like to add another teaspoon or two for a decent brew.
The Bits – For 2 mugs
2 mugs non-dairy milk
1 mug water
8 green cardamom pods (lightly crushed)
4 slices fresh ginger
8 black peppercorns
2 inch cinnamon stick (or 1 teas ground cinnamon)
1 star anise (optional)
1 teas fennel seeds (optional)
3-4 teas black loose-leaf tea (or 3 black tea bags, ripped and contents poured into pan)
In a large saucepan add the water along with the ginger and spices, bring gently to a boil and lower heat, simmer for 5 minutes.
Add your tea, simmer for 2 minutes. Now for the milk and sweetener of choice, bring back to a gentle boil and serve when the tea has a nice deep colour, pouring through a small sieve.
We tend to warm our cups with hot water before pouring in the chai. Nice to it properly, it is chai after all!
Some of you may have Peace & Parsnips and will be well aware of my love of spices. A large chunk of the beginning of the book relates to spices and their healing properties. Some of you may have also been reading this here blog for five years or so and be equally as familiar with my spice box and its contents. I love ’em!
Cinnamon is anti-microbial (kills bad bacteria), lowers GI, excellent source of calcium and fibre plus even the aroma is said to enliven the brain. Cinnamon is especially warming and when mixed with ginger in a chai becomes a remedy for the onset of colds and flu.