I would run down the stairs at 5:00 each morning to indulge in chai with my grandfather (Dada) before he went off to work. My grandmother (Mum) would take a couple teaspoons from Dada’s chai, mix it in with a cup of hot milk and serve me as well. I felt so proud, like an adult. I had the biggest smile on my face, sitting next to the only man I adored so much, and watching him gulp his tea with Indian biscuits. It was a sacred ritual that only we were apart of every morning. Then, as he left for work, the TV turned on and I watched My Little Ponies and Care Bears. Life was great.
Twenty-two years have passed, and the memory of my grandparents will always live on with one hot, soothing cup of chai. Happy Birthday Dada.
Basic Masala Chai
Chai is highly personal and varies from household to household throughout India and elsewhere. This is the classic recipe I grew up on and has the basic “masala” mixture. You can use pre-ground spices or grind up your own spices using a coffee grinder or spice grinder. I prefer to use all organic, fair-trade ingredients. Whole milk gives the chai a richer, creamier taste. More tea leaves will increase the color, caffeine and strength of the chai. It’s important to add the sugar into the beginning to caramelize the sugar with the milk and other spices. You can always add more later if needed.
1 Tbsp. Assam tea
1 cinnamon stick, broken up into pieces
2 whole cloves, ground
1-2 peppercorns, ground
2 cardamom pods, ground
1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
1 Tbsp raw cane sugar, more or less for your taste
1 Tbsp fresh, chopped mint or ½ Tbsp dried mint (optional)
1/2 cup water
1 cup whole milk
1. Simmer water with all dry ingredients, except tea leaves, in a saucepan for two minutes on low heat.
2. Add the milk and give the saucepan a swirl.
3. Add tea leaves and and increase heat to high.
4. Remove from heat when chai reaches a boil.
5. Strain tea into a teacup and enjoy!
Follow-up to A Perfect Cup of Chai.
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