I remember the first time I had a sip of tea. I was about 7 years old and in second grade. My best friend at the time, Anita, was spending the night and we decided to have a tea party. We raided my mom’s cupboards and found some old (antique) cups and saucers. We also managed to find a few tea bags. I didn’t know how to make tea– my parents never drank it– but we figured it couldn’t be that hard.
Anita turned on the faucet and filled the cups with hot water while I cut open the tea bags. We dumped the tea-dust into the cups of water and put them in the microwave for 5 minutes. While the tea was heating, Anita and I made a couple sandwiches–peanut butter and jelly; I believe. I remember being so excited to sit down, clink our cups together (cheers!) and drink tea. I felt like a grown up.
When our tea was finished in the microwave, we carefully took the very hot cups and placed them onto the saucers. We sat down at the table, giggling, and waited patiently for the tea to cool off enough to drink it. Once it was ready, we clinked the cups together (bad idea!…tea spilled everywhere) and took a sip.
As soon as the tea met my taste-buds, I knew tea was not for me. It was gritty and gross; and the look on Anita’s face showed me that she felt the same. We promptly dumped the tea down the sink, rinsed out our cups, and cracked open an orange Crush soda.
20 years have passed since my first experience with tea, and I’m glad to say it wasn’t my last. Now I enjoy many types of tea; sweetened and unsweetened, loose-leaf and bagged, Darjeeling and green. Although I’ll drink nearly any kind now-days, I undoubtedly prefer the sweet– and sometimes spicy– Indian style tea.
This delicious beverage, commonly known as chai (in Hindi) or cha (in Bengali), is not the same “chai” you get if you order it at an American coffee shop (I’m lookin’ at you Starbucks!). In America, Indian masala chai (mixed-spice tea) has become synonymous with the word chai; but chai is just a word for tea. It’s not a type of tea…and it definitely does not come from artificial syrup (did you know that tea leaves are not even a listed ingredient on some of the syrups your favorite coffee shop uses to make your chai?).
In India, chai is most often made with black tea leaves, way too much sugar, thick, whole milk…and green cracked cardamom pods—if you’re lucky!
sweet, green cardamom pods
It can be found everywhere…and I do mean everywhere! You can buy it for a couple rupees at the train station, served in tiny paper cups; or along the roadsides, where scant amounts are poured into tiny earthenware vessels; and if you’re lucky enough to be invited into an Indian home, you’re sure to be offered a steaming glass of creamy chai…with biscuits to dunk!
My mother and father-in-law (Maa and Baba), taught me how to make proper Indian-style tea…and for that, I am thankful! When preparing tea, they never really used exact measurements. Instead, they relied on color and taste. It took me awhile, but I think I’ve finally got it figured out (Baba, if you’re reading this…you’d be proud)!
Not only do I intend to share with you, dear reader, how to make Indian-style chai (and masala chai!), but I would also like to give you a chance to try some Darjeeling loose-leaf tea that I bought in Darjeeling, myself! This is not the Darjeeling tea you find lining your supermarket or co-op shelves…nooo…this is the real deal!
Darjeeling Loose Leaf Tea...and a strainer! The tea was purchased at Nathmulls in Darjeeling. If you want to learn more about it click here.
If you’d like a chance at trying some Darjeeling tea for yourself, here’s your chance! I’m having a giveaway, and one lucky reader will receive the package of tea and tea strainer shown above!
To enter, simply leave a comment telling me how you like to drink your tea! It’s that easy!
The giveaway ends Friday, April 6 at 7:00 p.m. Central Time. The giveaway is only open to U.S. residents aged 18+ (sorry!). Be sure to include a valid email address with your comment…if you win, I want you to know! I’ll choose the winner randomly using Random.org’s random number generator. If I don’t hear back from the winner by Monday, April 9 at 5:00 pm Central Time, a new winner will be chosen!
For an additional chance to win: Follow my blog or sign up for email updates. Be sure to leave a comment letting me know if you did this!
If you already follow or subscribe, I appreciate it and you deserve an extra chance too! Leave a comment letting me know!
My blog is pretty young yet…so the chances are good!
**The giveaway is now over! Congrats, Mary Ella! I hope you enjoy the tea!**
Now, on to the recipes!
Indian-Style Tea (with milk and sugar)
This can also be made using stevia, if you’re concerned about your sugar-intake. I also make it with soymilk. If you choose to do this be sure to add the soymilk at the end. Don’t boil it, it will curdle!
This recipe yeilds 3- 80z. servings.
- 2 c. water
- 1 tbsp. loose leaf tea
- 3 green cardamom pods, cracked (optional)
- sugar, to taste (if you want the whole “Indian experience” toss in about 3 tbsp–seriously.)
- 3/4 c. milk (whole milk, if you want to keep it real)
- Heat 2 c. water in a small pot over med-high heat until it’s rapidly boiling. Once it’s boiling, toss in the tea leaves (and a couple cardamom pods, if you want), cover the pot, and turn off the heat. Let the tea steep for about 5 minutes.
- Add sugar–to taste –and milk. Stir to combine everything. Turn heat back on and bring the tea back to a boil. Once it boils…it’s done! Don’t cook it for too long or it’ll turn a little bitter and taste funny. Turn off the heat, strain, and enjoy!
To make masala chai– follow the same recipe and method as above, but also add:
- small chunk of ginger, smashed (use as much as you would like, but remember…it’s strong!)
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 green cardamom pods, crushed
- small sliver of cinnamon
- 4 peppercorns
- 3 cloves
Add these spices, whole, to the water when you add the tea leaves. Experiment with the quantities of spices and find the mix that is just right for you! …Everyone’s tastes are different!
If you want to make the chai really special for someone, add a whole cardamom seed to the bottom before straining the tea into the glass! If you could say, “I love you” using spices…this is how you’d do it!
A spice-y surprise!