One of my weekend rituals is to prepare a steaming hot cup of India tea or chai. The term chai has become part of our everyday vocabulary over the last few years, with many coffee shops offering "chai tea."
The term chai directly translates in english as "tea" so it always makes me smile when I see "chai tea", I can think of a few comedians who have commented on this in their stand up routines as well.
While I live for tea of any kind, chai is my favourite and I love the aromatic smells of spices that remind me of cozy Saturdays on the couch chatting with my family.
While in the mountain ranges of Himachal Pardesh, India I had an unforgettable chai experience. Chai in India is served in many ways. The royals traditionally used elaborate tea service sets, made of beautifully carved silver.
This example was made in Kutch, Gujarat, India in 1880 and is 98% pure silver. Truly a remarkable piece of art (at the Royal Ontario Museum), but I'd hate to be the one polishing it!
Other times, chai is served, piping hot in small glasses at roadside "dhabas" or small hillstation rest stops. This to me is as authentic as it gets and restaurant chefs pour the hot tea back and forth into glasses, cooling it a little before it is ready to serve.
There is absolutely NOTHING like cold mountain air, beautiful scenery and a steaming hot cup of tea.
Traditional indian tea is made in a pot over hot coals and is flavoured with cardamom and other spices.
Here's how to make Indian tea at home:
(Makes two cups)
Put 1 1/2 cups of water into a small pot and place on medium heat on the stove. Using a mortal and pestle, grind two cardamom pods (you can use caradom seeds as well) and a pinch of fennel seeds. As the water comes to a boil, it will turn slightly green due to the simmering spices. Add 2 orange pekoe tea bags or loose leaf tea, depending on your preference. Let it boil for a few minutes longer then add milk - about 1/3 of a cup. If you are looking for a vegan option, almond milk will work here. Let the tea boil for a few minutes longer (be careful not to let it boil over) and sweeten with brown sugar, honey, stevia, agave (whatever you normally use in your tea). Serve it up with some cookies, dried fruit or if it's a rainy day, some potato pakoras....but that's another blog post for another day ;)
and now if you'll excuse me...it's tea time!
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