Meri wali chai

Amrita Prasad
Thursday, 11 July 2019

For Indians, chai is an anytime drink but not everyone can have tea anywhere, prepared anyhow. Some prefer certain ingredients in their beverage to make that perfect cuppa

Chai is an integral part of our lives, so much so that we can’t imagine our morning without it. Although tea is known to originate from China, we Indians have found a deep emotional connect with the beverage and most of us like our chai to be made in a specific way. A little deviation from the recipe can spoil the taste and the mood. And who wants to ruin the mood at the start of the day?  

Chai in Hindi means ‘a mix of spices steeped into a tea-like beverage’. So each one of us has his/ her favourite blend of spices for their cuppa. In fact, the recipe and method for chai is quite different in different parts of the country. Often called the ‘National Drink of India,’ some of the varieties of tea consumed in India are — Masala Chai (the tea which roadside tea stalls make with  ginger and cardamom); Kahwa (the traditional Kashmiri tea); Butter Tea (popular in the hilly regions of India, this tea is made with yak butter; Tandoor Chai (tea is prepared in kulhad which is preheated in the tandoor and the beverage is then served in a fresh and clean kulhad) and there are many others.

While some prefer kadak chai, some prefer a mild version of the beverage. Some like to put in a lot of masala and others like to keep it to a few ingredients only. Some like it thick with a lot of milk and then again, many enjoy it light, with less or no milk. There are also green tea and black tea lovers. 

We talk to a few tea aficionados to know how they like their cuppa and what ingredients are a must. 

I prefer my chai very strong and full of spices like black peppercorns, ginger, elaichi with a hint of mint. However, sugar is a strict no-no for me. I find the cuppa  invigorating and it has a calming effect on me. Although it is slightly on the fiery side, I find it perfect to de-stress me. However, in monsoon, I tend to boil it longer than usual because the more you boil, the stronger are the flavours, making the tea really kadak. I prefer tea leaves and tea dust is a big put off. I like my tea  thick, rich and creamy, hence I use buffalo milk to make it and add only a few drops of water so that the tea has a thick consistency. I can’t have tea made with less milk. Kadak is meri wali chai.  
— Mridula Singh, 41, banker, Gurugram 

For me, ginger is what makes the tea such an awesome drink. I like it simple and strong and ginger serves the purpose. Besides, it is full of health benefits. I am not someone who likes a lot of ingredients in my tea, so no cardamom, peppercorn or mint. It is just the humble adrak and it works its magic. However, I ensure that the amount of milk and sugar is more so that it doesn’t taste bitter — you have to get the perfect balance. Although many people may like their tea boiled for a long time, I boil it for exactly 8 minutes and that’s the trick to get the best flavour of the ginger.   
— Garima Goel, 39, homemaker, Bengaluru

Fennel and cumin are the must have ingredients in my simple tea — tea without milk. I like it slightly savoury and whole fennel and cumin seeds added to my Darjeeling tea, boiled for a good 15 minutes. This amazing drink leaves a pleasant taste in the mouth. Initially, I did try it with milk but the flavour of these seeds doesn’t go well with milk tea. The idea is to add a little bit of sugar and add 2 tablespoons each of these seeds to the boiling water and tea leaves. However, it is a very rare combination and not many people will like the taste. I did teach my mom and office boys at the workplace to prepare it, however, they never seem to get it right.  
— Kavya Pant, 24, HR professional, Kolkata

For me, a perfect chai is all about the balance between milk, water, sugar and other ingredients. After years of experimentation, trials and errors, I finally found the perfect chai — it has less milk and more of water. I love my tea pheeka, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love strong flavours. I can’t have tea without adding vanilla, cinnamon or nutmeg which add a unique aroma to my chai. While the quantity of milk is less, I add more sugar and boil it for at least 20 minutes. Then I  add crushed vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg and boil it for another 5-6 minutes for the flavours to enhance. I love sipping on this concoction with Marie biscuits. I can’t imagine a morning without this drink and I have to invest at least 30 minutes preparing it. I have tea only when it is prepared this way. 
—  Jawed Ahmed, 34, engineer, Pune  

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