Diana's Desserts - www.dianasdesserts.com


Servings: Makes 4 servings
Chai, pronounced with a chocolaty “ch” and rhyming with “sky” is a generic word for “tea” in many parts of the world. It is a sweet, exotic mixture of milk, tea, and spices. Chai’s history is over 5000 years old, with its creators enjoying it both hot and cold. Some stories say it was invented by a royal king in the ancient courts of India & Siam who protected the recipe as one of his treasures.

However, its roots can be traced unmistakably to the Hindu natural healing system called “ayurveda” in which combinations of spices, herbs and tea were used for their health benefits in serving as a digestive aid. Since its beginning, chai recipes have varied, and today, they differ by region, neighborhood and even by household. Recipes are handed down from generation to generation, so that having a cup of chai does not simply mean enjoying a relaxing beverage, but also experiencing a family tradition.

Today, chai is still the everyday beverage for Indian and other Asian households, where starting the day may involve enjoying a cup of chai taken from a large steaming kettle. Chai is also sold wherever people gather such as on trains, at bus stations and in marketplaces by street vendors called “wallahs” who bellow out “CHAI!” The wallahs serve the hot drink in low-fired clay cups called “kullarhs” that they make on open fires. After finishing, the cup is broken on the ground where it began just hours before.

2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
8 allspice berries
4 whole cloves
2 peppercorns
4 cups water
16 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
4 slices fresh ginger, lightly crushed
2 tea bags or 1 tbsp. black tea
1/2 cup milk, or to taste
3 tbsp. honey, or to taste

With a mortar and pestle, coarsely grind the cinnamon sticks, allspice, cloves and peppercorns. In a saucepan, combine the ground spices, water, cardamom pods and ginger. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside, covered, for 10 minutes.

Place the tea bags in a teapot, or put the loose tea in a tea ball and place in the pot. Return the spiced water to a boil and pour into the teapot. Let steep for 2 to 3 minutes, then strain the tea and serve with milk and honey on the side.

Makes 4 servings.

Date: January 14, 2003