Bob's Chai Page

A few weeks ago, amid reports of a host of problems attributed to excess coffee drinking, I decided once again to quit the java habit. Now that in itself was no difficult thing, but what I really missed was something warm to drink, especially on those cold winter mornings (and yes, we have some of those here in North Carolina). Coffee alternatives include a wide variety of brews, but each has its own set of problems.

A steaming cup of hot chocolate is always good but here we are talking a chemical mix here that can't be too good for the body plus, of course, it is very high in sugar. A vast variety of herbal teas is available, but in the words of Shania Twain: "that don't impress me much". So what does that leave, tea? Too bland and unexciting and I would just as soon drink plain old hot water! So what does that leave?

Many years ago I discovered a drink that originates in India called Chai (rhymes with eye.) This is a tea-based drink but has added to it quite a variety of spices. There is a plethora of chai recipes and I will list a few of them below, but I have done a bit of experimentation and will list the resulting methods and ingredients. First though, a bit of discussion (well you know me, how can we not have a bit of discussion?)

Remember all the lecture back in history class about the spice trade routes (what do you mean you slept through that part)? Also, remember that much of the world was discovered while explorers were seeking shorter ways to get to the Orient for, what else, spices! Even the word spice has connotations of excitement - 'the spice of life'! So spices, being discovered by Europeans back some 600 years ago became an important way to add a bit of zing to the bland and boring European dinner fare. Most spices originated in India and if you have ever been to an Indian restaurant then you know what flavor they add to food.

So that brings us to spices and tea, a way to make that boring and bland brew a bit more palatable. Also, we must remember the British influence on India and their propensity for adding milk to tea. So then, good chai is brewed by adding to tea, spices, a bit of sweetener, and some milk. With no further ado, let's make some chai! Now remember, I like things really spicy, so this particular recipe may be a bit much for many people, and if you are one who doesn't much care for hot food, then reduce the quantities of ginger root and garam masala a bit, but remember, with them goes the extraordinary flavor!

Bob's Morning Chai

Ingredients:

4 cups of water

1 to 2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger root

1 tablespoon garam masala *

1 teaspoon ground cardamom (a wonderfully sweet and pungent spice)

2 to 3 heaping tablespoons black tea (I buy this in bulk but tea bags will work too)

* garam masala is a mixture of spices that is used in Indian cooking and is available from most Indian or Oriental groceries.

The ginger root should be chopped (using a very sharp knife) into pieces no larger than 1/16 of an inch. Now if you are not used to the flavor of ginger, start with a lesser amount, since it really does have a zing to it. Ginger though, has many natural healing properties, so aside from it's wonderfully hot and biting flavor, there are many other reasons to keep it in the mix. Place the ginger and the tea and spices in a pan with the water and boil them for a few minutes. Please notice the wonderful fragrance that fills the kitchen! Once the chai is brewed, pour yourself a cup, add your favorite sweetener (I prefer honey), a dash of milk, and see what you think. One note: you may have to add more sweetener than you would like, but keep experimenting until you come up with just the right amount.

So, like most things I cook, chai has those important properties: it is easy and quick to prepare, it has a hot and exquisite flavor, and it has some healthful attributes. That said, go and give it a try, you will be glad you did! And if you are in the neighborhood some morning, please stop in for a hot cup of chai!

More chai recipes:

From shien@geocities.com

Chai (indian herbal tea with ginger)

small leaf tea (earl grey, chinese tea etc.)

1T fresh grated ginger (the more the merrier)

1tsp cinnamon

1tsp cloves

1tsp cardamon pods

1/2tsp nutmeg

1/2tsp garam masala

soy milk

sweetener of choice

water

Fill saucepan or pot with water and add ginger, boil. Add tea and spices, simmer, remove and simmer again till dark. Remove from heat, add soy milk and sweetener to taste. Return to heat and bring to boil three times to bring out flavour. Strain and serve. YUM!

Preparation time: 5 mins

Please note: I will add more recipes as I find them...Bob