Scented subtly of cardamom with wisps of flavorful steam flowing from the cup, chai (tea in Urdu/Hindi) is an absolute staple in the South Asian region. From day-to-day necessary chai indulgences to more formal high-teas, chai has evolved into a symbol of the culture and practices.
The recipe is simple, consisted of only 5 ingredients: water, loose tea, cardamom, milk, and sugar (the last 2 ingredients may be optional depending on your palate).
To make two cups of chai, pour 2 1/4 cups of water into a kettle. Next goes in the loose tea (any plain, black variety works. I use Tetley brand from the local South Asian supermarket).
Add a good 2 1/2 tablespoons of it into the kettle. I like to slightly heap my spoons – don’t be shy with quantities.
Next, put some cardamoms into the mix. Choose 5 long, big ones. You probably notice there’s a theme of liberality here.
I actually like to crush up my cardamoms and release the seeds on the inside and put in the lovely crumbled goodness. You could use some fancy crushing device, but I go old-fashion and just use the good ol’ molars (of course I’d be a bit more cautious if preparing for guests haha).
Allow the kettle to sit on the stove on high heat for as long as it needs to. As in, wait to hear it whistle.
Let it whistle for 1 – 1 1/2 minutes, then turn the heat off, move to a cool surface (like a different burner) and let sit for five minutes. If your kettle doesn’t have the whistling option, you can gauge this by boiling time. Let the tea boil for a minute or so, then turn the heat off and let rest.
Get your cups/mugs ready. Holding a tea sieve over the cup, pour around halfway into one. Do the same for the other cup.
Keep alternating cups until full (I use this method as it ensures both cups have equal flavor. Tea poured out towards end tends to be more flavorful simply because of increased concentration. I also like to take my wet-loose-tea-ful tea sieve and move it up and down over each cup to get every last, concentrated drop of chai outta there).
For some people (a rare population), you could be done at this step. But to get the full chai experience, it needs to be loaded up. Add milk/creamer/tea whitener – your choice and quantity at your discretion as well. Same goes for sugar.
Notice how the cup on the left is darker – reinforcing what I said above. In fact, (although this makes no difference in color) I used evaporated milk in one and tea whitener in the other. Both do the trick, but have subtly different tastes.
Et, voila. Enjoy!