Chai is more than just a drink in India; it’s a way of life. It’s one of the first things you are offered when you enter someone’s home, and there have undoubtedly been several multi-million dollar deals that have been sealed with a cup of chai.
While a hot cuppa warms the soul on a cold day, Indians drink piping hot chai as a way to beat the heat. It may sound strange, but it actually works. In fact, research shows that a 50˚C drink can help reduce body heat and keep you feeling cooler.
What is Chai?
Chai is the word for tea in Hindi. So, saying ‘chai tea’ is like saying ‘tea tea.’ There are various different ways to brew your chai, like karak chai or ‘cutting chai,’ where the tea brewer pours steaming hot chai from a height into small glasses before serving. It’s fascinating to watch; the process brings boiling tea to the perfect drinking temperature.
What Is Perfectly Brewed Chai Like?
Chai is deep and rich. It manages to be richly coloured and milky at the same time. It’s gingery and spicy, slightly bitter, and sweet all at the same time. It’s made on the stove, not with a kettle, so you can watch the colour deepen as it brews.
Brewing the perfect cup of chai is an art form. Everyone makes it slightly differently, and you’ll have to experiment a bit to find what works for you.
How to Make Chai
The most important thing to remember is to skip the tea bags (although you can use them if you’re in a pinch). Loose-leaf tea or tea powder brews the best chai. Go to an Indian grocery store, and you’ll find some of the brands beloved by millions of Indians, or just simply choose a tea that originates in Assam or Darjeeling. Assam tea makes for a stronger brew, while Darjeeling tea is lighter.
Although we’d recommend adding some ginger and cardamom, you can skip the spices completely if you wish. The recipe below is for two cups of tea because chai is best enjoyed with some great company.
Water – 2 cups
Tea Powder or loose-leaf tea – 2 teaspoons
Sugar – 2 teaspoons (or to taste)
Milk – 1/4th cup
Grated Ginger – 1 inch (optional)
Cardamom Pods – 2, coarsely crushed in a mortar and pestle (optional)
A little bit of patience
Mesh Tea Strainer
Cups to Serve
Pour water into your saucepan and add sugar and spices (if using) to it.
Bring it to a boil.
Reduce the heat and add the tea.
Let it brew on medium heat for about three to four minutes.
Add the milk; you can add more if you prefer a milkier brew.
Continue heating on medium heat for a couple of minutes as it comes to a boil.
Turn off the heat and strain into teacups.
Take a deep breath, inhale the delicious aroma of your chai, take a sip. Bliss. You’ll never call it chai tea again…
If you don’t drink dairy, choose oat milk or almond milk as substitutes for the best flavours. You can also try experimenting with other spices like cinnamon, fennel seeds, or star anise.
Accompany your chai with digestive cookies. Dip them into your hot chai and take a bite before you sip for a truly authentic experience. It takes some practice to ensure the cookie doesn’t simply crumble into your chai, but once you’ve mastered your dip and bite technique, you’ll never return.
When you need a break from brewing that perfect cuppa, come on down to Chachi’s Chai Bar for a cup of hot chai accompanied by authentic Indian snacks or little bites from Canada for a perfect fusion of Eastern and Western tastes.