Concocting the Perfect Cup of Chai Tea
Variations on a Traditional Theme: Concocting the Perfect Cup
Greta Kent Stoll | Concocting the Perfect Cup of Tea |
by: Greta Kent-Stoll
I was booked to studywith the Iyengars in Pune, Maharashtra, South India for the month of July 2011. I had been waiting, planning this journey for two years—since May 2009. Before I left, I was nervous, nervous, nervous. All the stories I had heard about the chaos of India and the intensity of the Iyengars didn’t help. I had never been to Asia and taking a big international trip like this on my own was a first. Mentors, teachers, and friends alike bestowed me with their own gems of wisdom leading up to my departure…anything from “Relax and go with it,” to “You may think you are going to die,” to advice about where to eat, what to bring, how to stay healthy. The bit of advice that most surprised me, however, was this: “You’re gonna love it. It’s all about the food.” The food? Really?! I was going to Pune to practice . To be honest, although I enjoy Indian food well enough, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the cuisine. At home in San Francisco, I primarily live off of fresh produce and salads. I knew that a salad in India would undoubtedly wreak havoc on my delicate Californian GI tract. With the plethora of foreign parasites and bacteria that I would be exposed to in the teeming subcontinent, I was under strict orders to only eat food that was well-cooked and well-washed.
It took about a week or so to adjust to the heavier spices and carbohydrate-laden meals, but after that, to my astonishment, I was a happy ghee-eatin’ camper. I am curious to know just how much ghee I consumed during my month stay in Pune. And exactly how I managed not to gain 20 lbs is also a physiological wonder. But, as it goes, I’ll chalk it up as another mystery of India. Though I enjoyed the Thali, the okra, the naan, cabbage mutter, and cauliflower, if I had to pick one food that hit the spot it would be the chai. (Chai does count as a food, especially the way it’s made in India). An avid tea drinker, the chai was my saving grace and a pure delight…it’s silky, spicy flavor is one that I have been seeking to replicate ever since my return home. The chai there is nothing like the watery, foamy mixtures you find at a lot of coffee shops in California. Indian chai is a milky, aromatic perfection. While I admit that I have in no way perfected or replicated the magical Indian recipe, here is an account of my humble attempt, and a few tasty riffs on a traditional theme.
I seem to be incapable of measuring anything and following directions in their exactitude. So, play, experiment, use common sense, and try out the different recipes to see which one works for you!
One disclaimer: I seem to be incapable of measuring anything and following directions in their exactitude. So, play, experiment, use common sense, and find the rations that work for you! Spices can be used in ground or whole form. Obviously, the fresher the better.
Tradition Masala Chai
Fill a pot with one part water, one part raw cow milk. Add Cinnamon, Cardamom, Dry Ginger, Black Pepper, Nutmeg, Mace, Cloves, Black Cardamom, Star Anise, and White Pepper. Keep at a rolling boil for 7-10 minutes. Add Black Tea of choice. Simmer for another 5 minutes, and then steep for a few, strain, add sweetener to taste, and enjoy!
Goat Milk Puer Chai
One part raw goat milk, one part water. Add masala mix: cardamom, dry ginger, black pepper, nutmeg, mace, cloves, black cardamom, star anise, white pepper, and boil for 7-10 minutes. For this one, I added extra cardamom, dried ginger, and dried lemon grass. Turn off stove, and add some puer tea leaves at the end. Let steep for 5 minutes. Puer tea is more delicate, so you don’t want to boil it. Strain it, drink it, love it. Add sweetener to taste.
Yerba Mate Chai
Same procedure as the Goat Milk Puer Chai, except you can use cow milk or milk of choice. I used a mixture of roasted and non-roasted yerba mate, which came out lovely.
Earl Grey Orange Blossom Chai
Mixture of Orange peel, Carob pods, Cardamom, Ginger, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Star Anise all in whole, dried form. Boil in a pot with one part raw milk, one part water for 7-10 minutes. Add Earl Grey tea leaves and let simmer for five minutes. Steep for a few more. Add a spritz of orange blossom water at the end, and sweetener to taste.
Play, experiment, use common sense, and try out the different recipes to see which one works for you!
Happy Recipe Experimenting!
- Greta Kent-Stoll
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