Imagine you are walking down the street in India. Every part of a house is painted a shade of vibrant, gaudy color personifying personal taste. Every truck has a 'blow horn' sign on it creating a cacophony of a deafening orchestra. Every chai wallah is preparing clay cup after clay cup of sugar-infused deliciousness, just waiting to create mini flavor explosions on your tongue. Chai time declares that it is break time. These five minutes enable the mustachioed men to enjoy time away from laborious jobs, discuss politics, and allow us tourists to escape the hectic heckling. My tongue is dancing around in my mouth and I am chai-ddicted!
Even though the British brought the tea cultivation to India, the Indians have done what they do to all foreign influences- add spice, in every sense of the word! The preparation of chai is not only a culturally practiced tradition but each single ingredient adds value for the body, mind and spirit. For example Ginger to prevent disease and cardamom to help digestion.
Chai is the constant companion in all the lands here. With regions varying distinctly in religion, politics, and hygiene, it is wise to assume that all chai is not the same chai. Going from East Bengal to West Bengal by train I had the uncomfortable experience of waking up early in the morning to find my milk and sugar substituted by salt and lime! I later discovered the difference in the chai stemmed from both economic and cultural views; in the smaller, rural areas sugar is unaffordable and milk is revered because it comes from the holiest of animals.
As I sip the dregs from my clay chai pot, I realize that tea is the basis of culture in many countries but in India it visually represents the sweetness in life- which is needed when life gets hard here for many millions of people. Through India's chai culture, I have learnt that Eastern mentality emphasizes visualization and creation whereas my Western mind requires reasoning and rationality and that is the main reason why many foreigners find Incredible India to be frustrating at times. For this chai moment in time I have adopted their philosophy and savored in every minute detail that awakens each one of my senses like never before. To me, my chai-ddiction allows me to sit back and take in the sensory overload comfortably. These rare moments in life create everlasting impressions in my memory and are essentially what I live for as a traveler.
The perfect masala chai!
- crushed white peppercorns
- sliced dry Ginger
- black tea powder
1. Mix half milk and half water in a pot. Open flame works the best.
2. Add all above ingredients
3. Heat until the milk boils and bubbles to the top. Froth milk by lifting on and off the fire a few times.
4. Strain into a tea pot and serve for amazing responses.
*come to India for the real authenticy stuff! You won't regret it