South Indian Cookbook

Indian Chai
(Indian Spicy Tea)

Indian Chai is a rich milky drink laced with spices. On the busy streets of Madras there are many small coffee and tea shops where you can have wonderful hot, milky, sweet cup for a few rupees. As you are waiting for your fresh cup, you can see the man bash a piece of fresh ginger and toss it into the boiling milk for a particularly refreshing taste. In making this tea, use only strong black tea leaves. I prefer the small rolled leaf tea from brands like PG Tips from Brookebond, Taj Mahal, or Taylors of Harrogate Yorkshire Tea (or teas of similar quality). These can often be found locally in specialty tea and coffee shops. If you are unable to find them there, tea for Indian Chai can be ordered online.

In a sauce pan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add 2-3 tablespoons of strong black tea leaves to the pan (or bags of high quality black tea) and stir a few times. Next, add two cups of milk, 3/4 in. of ginger (peeled and given one good bash!), and a pinch of cardamom powder and bring again to a boil, taking care to not let it boil over. Once it comes to a boil, remove from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes. In the pan you can now add the sugar to taste. In homes and restaurants, it is served with sugar already in it. Let you guests add their sugar of sugar substitute if they have particular preferences.

With Indian Chai, try experimenting with spices. Add one whole clove to the milk, but be careful, if you use ground clove, this is a very strong spice and can be overwhelming so only use a small pinch. Nutmeg in small quantities can also be very nice.