Ek cup chai krapya. That's how you order chai in India, not "one chai latte elephant vanilla decaf, please". True, the sweet, made-from-concentrate chai you can get at coffee shops and the like taste nice and when I'm shopping I also sometimes get one on the go. But that's not the real deal. Also you can't get it when you are at home with some close friends and need something to accompany a great conversation or soothe the mind.
I will share my tried and true recipe with you, but first some clarification.
Chai is a wonderful word that is used in different cultures for "tea". I know of Iran and India, but there are more, I am sure. In Germany we use the word "Tee", like the English word. What we mean by it is simply tea leaves brewed or boiled in hot water. In the Middle East and parts of Asia tea is often combined with milk and spices. During my time in India I fell in love with Indian chai. It was the most common drink apart from water, I'd say. Every time my driver stopped somewhere, he offered me a small glass/plastic cup (about 100ml) of the sweet hot chai. It is in essence black tea brewed with milk and water and added spices. The combination of spices is what influences the quality of the chai. It is very difficult to get the combination just right so that neither ginger, cinnamon nor cloves are too dominant. Whenever I drink a cup of a perfectly harmoneous blend, what comes to my mind is the word "serenity". Good chai never fails to calm me down.
So, here we go:
Homemade Masala Chai
Black tea (Nice quality and/or organic preferred. First or second flush are good) no tea bags!
Milk (anyone tried soy?)
Same amount of water
Ginger, sliced (about one small thumb size, like 3 cm/1 inch)
A cinnamon stick
4-6 cardamom pods (slightly crushed so the tea can get inside)
1. Fill a medium sized pot (mine fits about 1.5 liters) half with water and half with milk.
2. Fill a tea egg/sock/filter with 2 tablespoons (not heaped) of the black tea. Add the spices (you can also put them straight in the water, they are easy to pick out). Add to the pot.
3. Heat and simmer for about 1.5 hours, tasting occasionally whether the spices are getting too sharp.
4. Add some sugar to taste and enjoy.
Too much effort? Believe me, it's worth it.
Funnily enough the recipe is from my favorite Indian restaurant over here in Bremen. The people here are super friendly and the atmosphere is very relaxing. Check here for some local interculturality, if you want. You can see the owner on the website, who I've known for quite a while now and who was so sweet as to share his recipe with me. Although the restaurant is called Bombay he is not from Mumbai. Not all Italian restaurant owners can be from Venetia either, right?! So much for cultural stereotypes.
Bringing home recipes from your holidays can be so great or such a disappointment. My family often brought home wine and cheese (Pecorino) from our holidays in Italy only to discover that they had tasted soo much better under the Italian sun. Other recipes become family favorites and remind everybody of the wonderful time everybody had. Here are two really nice examples by prominent bloggers:
Check "Sweet Paul" for a wonderful travel story and a hearted recipe. (Hello Paul, I just bought Ricotta yesterday and am going to prepare your dish right now. Thanks so much!)
Let me know if you try the chai recipe yourself or if you have any questions. What is "tea" in your language?