At the risk of sounding judgemental, it’s difficult for me to trust those people who don’t like hot drinks. Maybe its more intrigue than distrust.

What do these people do first thing in the morning? What do they do as soon as they enter the front door and slump their bags off their shoulders after a long day at work? What do they do to celebrate good news, comfort themselves after bad news or prepare for a rainy day of Netflix binging, armed with a pack of chocolate Hobnobs and a crumby blanket. What I do in each of these situations is put the kettle on! 

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I average at around two, maybe three cups of tea an hour which probably places me quite high up on the habitual tea-drinker scale. I am definitely one of those people who could benefit form a Wallace & Gromit-esque tea making alarm clock as my brain is still full vegetative state in the morning before my first brew. If you invite me over and ask if I want a cuppa then chances are we will likely be friends by the time I’ve had my last sip and if you have a designated tea cupboard…well, that places you in best friend territory. Tea and all that it symbolises is very important to me.

Arthur blinked at the screens and felt he was missing something important. Suddenly he realised what it was. “Is there any tea of this spaceship?” he asked.

Douglas Adams. The HItchiker’s guide to the galaxy

Although my cells are made up of 90% catechins (a type of phenolic compounds very abundant in tea*), I believe my love for tea is more nurture than nature. I blame/ thank my grandmothers for my compulsive brew guzzling. My nan has PG Tips running through her veins. I have never met a person who drinks as she does and I fervently believe that I never will. Whilst she takes her first few sips of a fresh cuppa, she’ll flick the kettle to ensure that the next will be ready by the time she’s finished said cuppa. In this cocktail of hard, Gloucestershire water, caffeine and Gold Top milk (she still gets a milk-round), my nan will stir in four teaspoons of white sugar. FOUR. My mum once did the maths on how much sugar and caffeine she consumes in a single day – it isn’t pretty but who am I to judge if it makes her happy!

On the other side of my family there is my Daddyma who takes a different approach to sweet tea making. A simple flick of the kettle is replaced with a meditative ritual of toasting spices, simmering milk, honey and tea bags until a comforting pan of chai is ready to serve to the family. Served in glass mugs (if you’re Indian then you’ll know the glass mug) alongside a plate of nankhatai’s – a crumbly shortbread made with ghee and gently spiced with cardamom. Chai Masala symbolises the end of a feast where I’m forced to lie back and surrender to a biriyani coma, holding a warm mug on my bloated belly whilst the simmered spices work their digestive wonders. Whether it’s a builders brew at my nan’s or a chai at my daddyma’s, each drink represents the same thing – a warm, fuzzy hug in a mug. 

Whilst the word chai just means tea, masala chai means spiced tea and it’s my favourite kind. It’s milky, deeply tanned, steaming hot and requires a good dose of sweetness to offset the bold, astringent spices. Below is my recipe for an Indian chai masala which can serve as a guideline as each recipe is uniquely different from one Indian family to the next. If you begin to make chai masala regularly then you’ll begin to get a feel for for your preferred balance; if you are fighting a cold then you might add more ginger, if you crave more perfumed fragrance then a touch more cardamom or extra cinnamon for some warming sweetness.

Reading books and drinking Chai
A Cup of Chai

A Cup of Chai

0 from 0 votes
Course: IndianCuisine: DrinksDifficulty: Easy
Servings

2

servings
Prep time

5

minutes
Cooking time

10

minutes

Milky, deeply tanned, steaming hot and requires a good dose of sweetness to offset the bold, astringent spices. A true hug in a mug.

Ingredients

  • 1 small chunk ginger, smashed

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 4 green cardamom pods, crushed

  • 1 small stick cinnamon

  • 4 peppercorns

  • 3 cloves

  • 1 star anise

  • 1 pinch fennel seeds (around 10 seeds)

  • 1 cup water

  • 4 tsp loose leaf tea (tear a couple of teabags if you haven’t got loose leaf to release the tea)

  • sugar to taste (around 4 tsp if you want the full Indian sugar-kick experience)

  • 1 cup whole milk

Directions

  • Toast the whole spices together gently until they smell aromatic. They will start to release their smells before they brown so watch like a hawk. Remove from the hot pan as soon as they’re ready.
  • Add water, milk, sugar, tea leaves and spices to a small pan and stir to mix.
  • Continue heating over medium-high heat until the mix is rapidly boiling.
  • Turn the heat down a bit, and let the tea simmer until the colour begins to darken – this should take 3-5 minutes but the colour is more of an indicator. You want it to go from an anaemic tone to the colour of a Werther’s Original.
  • Increase the heat again and let the tea come to 3 more vigorous boils, this will happen quicker than the simmering.

  • Remove from heat, and strain into cups using a fine sieve or paper coffee filter.


  • Enjoy piping hot or let it sit until a wonderful silky milk skin forms on the top surface. Love it or hate it, I love milk skin.

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