Should you go for chai or tea? Both beverages are very much the same in many aspects. However, the process is slightly different if you want to make traditional Indian tea (chai). Tea is made from loose leaves and usually served plain or with a little amount of milk. On the other hand, almost all chai recipes use a strong CTC base. CTC stands for ‘cut, tear and curl’ and it is used to describe heavily rolled black tea leaf with very low moisture content. Once the tea leaves are optimally boiled, milk and spices are added to create a balanced taste with rich aroma.
What Chai Means in India?
In India, the term ‘chai’ generally means tea. Most Indians drink chai boiled with milk and sugar which has made the word chai synonymous with milk tea. There are different recipes to make Indian tea and the specific names usually indicate the condiment(s) used in the tea. For instance, when ginger is added, it’s called ‘Adrak Chai’. Similarly, ‘Masala Chai’ is a type of tea coupled with milk and a hint of spices such as, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon. Moreover, ‘Saunf Chai’ is the same milk tea flavored with fennel seeds. The term chai is generally referred to black tea and hot milk with sugar.
Chai and The Rest of the World
With chai continuously growing in popularity, Western tea drinkers have started referring to milk tea as chai tea or chai latte. Latte is an Italian term for milk; café latte is a combination of espresso and milk. A chai latte is a combination of tea and milk made by adding tea infusion into a cup of hot milk.
Meanwhile, with more Indians choosing to consume more varieties of tea besides traditional chai, the concept of tea has become broader. It can refer to either black, green, or even a blend. However, everyone uses a different recipe to make Indian tea. Some people prefer it with milk while others may opt to add lemon or sweeten with honey or sugar. Usually, strong black tea combines well with milk, while green and white teas are best to consume plain and unsweetened.
The Struggle To Make Indian Tea to perfection
Everyone has different opinions about making a perfect cup of chai. The debate is mostly about milk first or milk after, the length of brewing time of the tea, and even the type of teapot used to make Indian tea. Most people struggle to maintain the balance between each step included. Sometimes, tea is brewed more than recommended, or the choice of teapot is not ideal for brewing. Even a slight change in the quantity of ingredients can make a big difference.
What is the easiest way to make traditional Indian Tea?
There are various ways and recipes to make traditional Indian tea. However, more than the recipe, the method is taken into consideration. Let us discuss the easiest way to make a perfect cup of chai.
The Expert Method to make traditional Indian Tea (Chai)
- Warm The Pot
Whether you are using tea bags or tea leaves, a quick swirl of hot water ensures that the post is perfectly warmed and the cold doesn’t upset the tea.
- Use of Teapot
You can use any type of teapot, however, the steel pan or the China pot is recommended for perfect infusion and rich taste.
- Freshly Boiled Water
While adding water, make sure to first boil fresh water. Using reboiled water is not suggested for good oxygen levels.
Milk first or last is the most common question. Both methods result in different tastes. However, the traditional way is to add milk first and warm it till boiling level. This method gives you enriched taste and flavor. However, adding milk afterwards keeps the chai lighter and thinner. This is a good way to judge the strength of the tea.
- Tea, Sugar and Spices
Now add tea leaves/bags in boiling milk. You can add spices according to your taste and flavor. Some commonly used spices are cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, fennel and cloves. You can add honey or sugar to sweeten it. Make sure to mix all the ingredients well.
Stirring the tea continuously is very important to bring out the true taste and aroma. When you mix the tea leaves/bags well, the tea is infused properly.
- The Time
Time also varies for each recipe. However, ideally speaking, 3 to 4 minutes is the time needed for optimum infusion. Infusing too little will give you weaker taste. On the other hand, infusing too much can make the tea darker and acidic.
How to Set Up a Cozy Environment to Enjoy Chai
In India, chai is consumed throughout the year, regardless of location and weather. However, the demand for chai increases in winters as it is a preferred hot drink. It is not necessary to create a perfect environment for chai. From road side stalls to the lavish urban restaurants, people can be seen enjoying chai everywhere.
If you want to create a cozy atmosphere at home to enjoy chai, you must take the following things into consideration:
- Find an empty corner/room with calm surroundings and a window with a view
- The lights should be dimmed (preferably yellow or warm light)
- Keep the room clean and tidy
- Set up chairs and tables with clean utensils
- Play music in low volume as per your choice and taste in genres
- You can also read books if you prefer reading over listening to music
- Meditate as you slowly consume chai sip by sip
- When you are done with chai, make sure to clean your room and keep it tidy
The Bottom Line
In a nutshell, the popularity of chai in India and all over the world cannot be ignored. Indian tea is widely consumed and there are many recipes to make the perfect cup of chai. There are no hard and fast rules to be followed while making Indian tea. However, if you want to experience the true, rich taste of chai, you must follow the traditional method as explained in the article. Chai is a savory drink and if you haven’t tried it yet, you are missing out on a delicious beverage. Grab a cup now to enlighten your taste buds with this aromatic and flavorful drink.