One of the first phrases I ever learned in Hindi is the title of this post: hot tea! I’ve had “garam” chai and thanda ( ठंडा ) chai – in my experience the only difference being temperature. In almost every taste of the store-bought stuff I’ve been disappointed. I’ve tried the Starbucks version which reminded me very much of the most watered down brew of chai with dishwater suds mixed in. I once had a container of this powder stuff that you just stirred into hot water. It wasn’t bad, but also wasn’t good enough for me to buy more. I also remember it being really loaded with things like sugars and sodium and calories, which surprised me for crap that was stirred into hot water. Definitely haven’t bought more of that. Last night when my Beloved and I were at an art cinema to watch “Awake – The Life of Yogananda,” (which I plan to write about here shortly) I bought a hot chai beverage from the bar and it literally was the Tazo brand – pre-made, poured from the same container I’d have bought it in at the grocery, heated up, and then I was charged $6 for it. So disappointed. And I’m aware McDonald’s has a chai, but I can’t bring myself to try it.
There’s a manager guy at work who is known to have made his own chai on a regular basis. I asked him a few times about the recipe or the method and he’s not been terribly helpful – I think mostly because he isn’t doing it “the right way” (by his own standards, not mine) and feels shy about that. The only other thing I can share about my experience with chai is that I once had some at a satsangh I was attending. It was about as fresh as it could have been since it was might right then – but it was so incredibly hot (again, temperature) that I was very nearly seriously burned just touching it to my lips and I remember it being a solid 45 minutes before it had cooled sufficiently even for me to actually sip it. Once I could though, it was delicious – but the experience was already ruined. Honestly, I might be a bit sensitive to temps but how can anyone drink a fluid so hot it would blister your flesh?
This has led me to the adventure of making my own. I’ve looked around online and the recipes vary a bit, but ingredients that are common include cinnamon stick, whole cloves, cardamom pods, ginger, a sweetener like sugar, black tea, and milk. There are some significant variances though, between recipes and methods, and I did find one recipe that mentioned Star (of) Anise and in looking around it seems that this ingredient (and a couple others) isn’t found in each recipe. Aside from sugar and black tea, the photo below shows the basic ingredients I’ll be putting inside the cheesecloth when I make my own.
The first recipe I encountered basically amounted to boiling down some milk, brewing into it some tea, and straining / soaking (in cheesecloth) the aforementioned solid ingredients with sugar being just stirred in (not necessarily in the order I’ve mentioned those steps). I plan to use this as my overall approach to the task and will be aided by online recipes and YouTube videos.
We’ll see how this goes!
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti