Sunday, February 7, 2010

Spicy Chai Indian Tea

Having worked for many years in the technology sector with many fine people of east Indian heritage and/or origin, I not only developed a taste for spicy hot curries and overall Indian cuisine, but also for a type of spiced tea which has become popularized in the West over the last decade or so. This is "spiced chai", or "chai tea". What is amusing is that "chai" is the name for tea. So the phrase "chai tea" is really just a repetition in two languages. What is spiced chai? It is when you mix together strong black Indian teas with a spice blend called "tea masala". Tea masala popularly contains ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, and clove. Mint leaves can optionally be added into the mix for a pleasant flavor variation.

This is not meant to b e a recipe so I will not state amounts. I rarely work from recipes. It is more fun to just experiment. What you should do to make a proper sort of spiced chai is to get some loose CTC cut Indian tea from an Indian market or online. Popular Indian brands are Wagh Bakri, Taj Mahal, Lipton Red or Yellow Label (the Indian versions NOT the American Lipton, which is a weak American blend unrelated to the Indian brands), or any other strong Assam black tea that you can find. The CTC type of tea looks like little tiny balls. They are basically a "cut tear curl" cut of tea which infuses very well into water, making a strong black solution. Take a few cups of water and boil in a pot.

Put in several teaspoons of this CTC or other strong black tea and let it simmer for a few minutes with a spoon of the chai spice blend, the tea masala mentioned earlier. Let the tea and the spices mix in a slow simmer for about 5 minutes. You can now add milk (enough to lighten to a nice creamy muddy color) and turn up the heat until it hits a boil, then back off and simmer for a few minutes. You can either add sugar or sweetener to the whole batch or by the cup. This is a drink meant to be sweetened. If you do not want sugar or are diabetic, you can use artificial or another sweetener.

I prefer stevia but xylitol also works well. (xylitol can be fatal to dogs - not that you would give the chai to a dog but I mention it anyway) Now you can use a strainer to catch the loose tea leaves when you pour the hot spicy brew into cups, or a tea kettle, for serving. Indian people use fancy tea brewers for this whole process. If you desire precise amounts, you can easily find them online through any of the major search engines.

Spicy chai is a refreshing and lovely spiced tea drink. In India they have roadside tea stalls and vendors that sell it by the cup. Using a proper spice mix (or your own grinding of the listed spices) and a good quality strong Indian Assam tea is the way to go. Do not use the pre spiced bags of tea except in dire situations when you cannot do better, like if you are at work. Tea is a healthy drink and the spices in spiced chai are very healthy for digestion and overall well being.

Cinnamon alone is great for keeping blood sugar levels in check, especially if you sweeten your chair with stevia or another non sugar sweetener. Strong Assam tea contains many more antioxidant properties than weak industrial tea that many the in the West and in America think of when they think of tea. Many people who claim to dislike tea just never had anything except the pathetically flavor lacking types they find in the local supermarket. A good quality black tea should look at dark as fresh brewed coffee when completely steeped in water.

Spicy chai can open up another world of flavor sensation, and it can be as satisfying to the taste buds as an entire meal, without the calories of a full meal. Get yourself some tea masala and some Assam black tea and try it for yourself. You won't be sorry.

No comments:

Post a Comment