Chai, which rhymes with pie, is an Indian word for tea, as well as the name of this beverage. For centuries it’s been prepared all over India; the spices used in it vary, but the most common are cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and black pepper. Chai derives a warming, soothing effect from the cinnamon, cloves, and pepper, while the ginger and cardamom act as natural digestive aids. It’s reputed to give one a wonderful sense of well-being, so it’s no wonder that drinking chai has become a way of life in India. Don’t omit the sugar in the recipe, as you need enough to bring out the spice flavor. Somehow chais seem to lose their full robustness without it. This tea is sweet and spicy, and is rich enough to be served in place of a dessert. The following is our recipe for chai, but feel free to alter it to suit your tastes.
- One 3-inch piece cinnamon stick
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 4 whole cloves
- 6 green cardamom pods, slightly crushed, or substitute ½ teaspoon ground
- ¼ teaspoon black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
- 2 allspice berries
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 cups milk
- 4 to 6 teaspoons sugar, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons loose tea, preferably black or Darjeeling
Put 2 cups of water and the spices in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover the pot, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the milk and sugar and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the tea leaves, cover the pot, and turn off the heat. Allow the tea to steep for 2 minutes.
Strain the chai into a teapot or individual cups and serve immediately.