Happy New Year to you all! A year ago I had just got back from spending 5 1/2 weeks in southern India. One of my favourite memories is watching chai being made on the street stalls. There is such an art to it. Before serving it, the chai man would pour the tea between two metal beakers about a meter apart in distance. It would leave a lovely trail through the air. It gives the chai a little froth, a great mix, and it cools it down to make it a more drinkable temperature. Of course chai is famous for it’s lovely blend of spices, but the tea you use is just as important, as is the milk and sweetener. I don’t drink a lot of cow’s milk so I have been on a hunt to find the perfect alternative. It led to many disappointing mixes, until I realised that the tea really needs the fat content from the cow’s milk to make the flavour more rounded, so this led me to preference nut based milks which have a high fat content. My winner has to be the rice-almond milk alternative. And I really recommend trying to find this combination if you’d like to have a non dairy milk.
In the south the tea is more subtle in it’s spices, it warms and adds a wonderful aroma to the tea, but isn’t over powering, like the chai spice powder blends that you often get in cafes these days.
In terms of the tea, you’ll need quite a strong, dark and robust tea. In India they they grow Assam and Darjeeling, so those would be preferred. It works really well with decaf tea too.
The chai tea is always served sweet unless you request otherwise in south India. I try to reduce my sugar intake so I don’t add any but to have a genuine cup of chai sweeten it to taste with brown sugar (or honey) or take my recommendation. It’s perfect to warm the soul, warm our bodies and never fails to raise a smile. Make a large batch and keep it in the fridge so you can enjoy a cup of chai for the next couple of days.
If you have any comments about this recipe please let me know below, or on Instagram. Oh and I love to see your pictures of the recipes too. Have a great start to 2021.
Serves 6 – 8
26 Cardamom pods
4 cm piece Cinnamon stick
1/2 Tsp Fennel Seeds
1 Tsp Coriander Seeds
3 Star Anise petals
3 cm piece fresh Ginger
A pinch of Salt
1,2 L Water
600 ml Cow’s Milk, or 1 L Rice – Almond / Coconut – Almond Drink
7 Black Tea Bags, or about 14 g loose Tea
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar, or Honey, or more / less to taste.
Crush all the spices roughly in a pestle and mortar. Place in a saucepan with a pinch of salt. bring to the boil and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to steep for a further 5 – 10 minutes. In a saucepan large enough to hold 2 litres, heat the milk gently. Once the spices have steeped, bring the water back to the boil and add the teabags. Turn off the heat and a allow to steep for a further 3 minutes. Drain the black tea through a sieve into the milk, mix well and sweeten to taste. Serve immediately!