the anatomy of chai
The Culture of Chai
India ranks as the world's leading producer of tea, however more than 60 percent of what is produced remains within the country. Tea is India’s national drink, however most tea consumed in India is not enjoyed for its subtle flavor nuances, but is instead blended with sweet and pungent spices to make chai.
Indian chai varies region by region, depending on what grows locally, but chai typically combines very strong, concentrated Assam black tea boiled in milk with local spices such as cinnamon, clove, cardamom, and occasionally black peppercorns, ginger, star anise, and red chilies. The drink is then sweetened with sugar or honey.
How to Make Chai from Scratch
Chai can easily be made at home. It is a flexible, versatile drink and can be made with water, milk (evaporated, regular, condensed, soy), or a combination of both. It can be sweetened with either sugar or honey, though honey is the more traditional choice. The flavor and aroma of chai should be rich and full, with a creamy, milky, sweet and spicy flavor.
It can take some experimentation to find the right combination of spices for your taste, but the result is well worth the effort. You can even dry roast and grind your own blend of spices.
A Recipe for Chai
Servings: Makes 3 cups.
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground spices (cinnamon, clove and cardamom are usual, but you can also add black peppercorns, ginger, star anise, nutmeg, red chilies and more)
- 2 teaspoons of Assam black tea (we recommend our Kopili Assam and Organic Assam)
- 1 pint or 1/2 liter of milk (whole, evaporated, condensed, soy)
- Sweetener (sugar or honey) to taste
Combine the spices, Assam tea, milk and sweetener of your choice in a saucepan or pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, being careful not to scald the milk. Take the pot off the heat and let it stand for 4 minutes. Strain the drink into a teapot or glasses. More sweetener can be added to taste. Add star anise, cardamom pods or a cinnamon stick for decoration.