For us Indians, chai is more than just a beverage that is widely consumed; it is a way of life. Most families begin their day with a cup or glass of steaming chai. It is the staple brew for a mid-morning break, our own version of elevenses and a perfect pick me up to get over an afternoon slump. Social gatherings are never complete without endless cups of milky chai.
In a country as diverse in culture, language, and customs as India, drinking tea is a ritual which binds us together, in a common feeling of camaraderie and comfort.
There is something soothing in the ritual of making tea, the boiling of water, the pounding of spices, the inhaling of the deep rich aroma of the simmering brew, and the slow sipping of the piping hot beverage. It transports you to a state of mindfulness, even if for a couple of minutes and you come away refreshed and comforted.
Here are some tips on how to make perfect chai.
What is chai?
The word chai literally means tea, in Hindi. So, asking for ‘chai- tea’ is like asking for tea-tea and is considered an abomination. Indian tea is more robust and bolder than its western counterparts. It is typically rich and milky with a deeply colored hue, and a burst of flavors. It needs to be sweetened to balance the nutty bitterness of the strongly brewed tea leaves.
Masala chai is like a more dramatic cousin of the plain chai. It is brewed with a blend of spice mix, which lends it that unique flavor. Each family and region will have their own way of brewing chai and a different mix of spices, unique to them. In India, you can get chai in every nook and corner, from the chai walls with their deep vats, “pulling” tea from a height to give it that perfect froth, to the cafes with their fancy versions of chai.
How to make perfect chai ?
Wondering how to make perfect chai? Read on to find out:
The trick on how to make perfect chai starts with using pure water which is odorless without chemical taste which is so prominent in tap water. Using filtered RO water is your best bet as it adds to the flavor and taste of your chai.
The fats in the milk when combined with the tea leaves and spices creates an alchemy that balances their favors and elevates the taste of the tea.
Though sugar is widely used, try jaggery and brown sugar to get that rustic, nutty flavor of street style chai served in little earthen pots.
Pouring your chai back and forth between two vessels, or from your ladle to the pot from a height, often known in common parlance as ‘pulling’ your tea. This aerates the tea making it thick, frothy and aromatic.
If you are partial towards masala tea, then you can experiment with a bevy of spices to create new versions of chai each time. Grating or lightly pounding the spices helps to extract maximum flavor.
Recipe on how to make Perfect Chai.
4 cups water
1 tablespoon loose black tea
1 teaspoon grated or pounded ginger, fresh.
½ teaspoon chai masala
¾ cup whole milk
1 tablespoon brown sugar
In a saucepan, add water and heat until simmering.
Add in the fresh ginger and chai masala and bring to a rapid boil for 3-4 minutes.
Add loose tea and boil for about 3 minutes.
Pour in the milk and adjust heat to medium, allowing flavors to mix well, simmering for about 5 minutes.
With a deep ladle, pour the chai back and forth repeatedly into your pot from a height. This process makes your chai thick and frothy while adding extra aromatics. Repeat a few times.
Remove from heat. Put your strainer/sieve on your cup and put ½ tablespoon sugar in there.
Pour the perfect chai through a strainer. Repeat for the second cup.
Mix gently and enjoy hot.
Recipe credit: Nisha Vedi Pawar
And that is how you make the perfect cup of chai! No go try it for yourself and enjoy its soothing comfort. A cup of tea does make everything better, if only for a few minutes!