by Michael W. Taft
A hot cup of spicy chai is a fabulous way to start the day: allow no substitutes. It’s also makes a great support to meditation. Getting hopped up on tea before meditating is a traditional practice. Some swear by green tea, which I like, but my favorite by far is Indian chai. Yet chai-making—the real way—is a much understood process in America. True chai creation is a complex, secret, proprietary process that I will reveal here publicly for the first time. I’ve spent almost all my India-time in the north, so this is North Indian street vendor (“chai wallah”) chai. None of your fancy South Indian spices, like nutmeg or cloves, here. This stuff is rocket fuel:
- Ginger root (whole)
- Fresh whole cardamom pods
- “Red Label” brand tea. Technically, it’s orange pekoe(loose in the box, not bags.)
- Whole milk (or 2 percent for the weight-conscious)
Part I – The Tea & Spices
- Pour one Ball jar full of water (pure and sweet) into a pan. As you’re bringing it to a boil:
- Grate in a ton of ginger. A “ton” means a knob about the size of a lemon (Yes, that much. Much more than you’d think.).
- Place 8 whole cardamom pods on the counter and crush with the side of the empty Ball jar. Toss cracked pods into water with ginger.
- Let the mixture come to a complete boil. This is an important step! It keeps the ginger from curdling the milk (which is to come).
Part II – The Milk & Sugar
- Pour one Ball jar full of milk into the boiling mixture.
- Add five heaping (more or less, depending on your drug dependency) teaspoons of Red Label tea. It must be Red Label, or the chai mixture is declared invalid, and will taste funny.
- Stir, while watching like a hawk. Glazing your stove with boiled milk is no fun.
- Take off the stove when—and only when—the milk boils.
- Pour through a strainer, while experiencing no strain
- Sweeten to taste with crystalline sugar. Using honey declares the chai invalid (It would never, ever have honey in it in India), but also means that you’re probably an Orc.
I’m not responsible for any feelings of extreme bliss you may experience as a result of drinking this chai.