Chai, Glorious Chai

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You know those days when you finally get an hour free—through careful planning, preparation, and some magical alignment of the stars—and then you can’t decide which one you need more: sleep, or time alone.

Today I’m going to embrace sleep depriation and say, I NEED SOME TIME ALONE.

So I’m snuggled up under warm covers in my mountaintop tin-roof house, sipping chai, resting on a heating pad, with fingers flying. There’s so much to take in these days. So much to process and savor. So much to debate and mull over. There’s just… so… much.
Recently I realized that many of my posts are pretty heavy and reflect the serious challenges and complexities of my life. I thought, “I need to write some peppy posts!”So here’s a topic I love to think and talk about: chai

Deliciously thick, sweet, heady, masala chai.

My chai is better than yours. I promise.

Unless you have spent time in an Indian home (in India) where the milk (buffalo’s) is full fat (don’t give me none of that fat-free stuff!) and the tea leaf grinds (pati) are pungent, the spices are fresh, and its boiled up three times to get that perfect tint of reddish brown, you haven’t tasted real chai.
Not that I mind an occasional “chai tea latte” with frothy milk and vanilla flavor, but that really has nothing to do with the thing that we (those of us in the country that invented the stuff) call masala chai. Seriously. Starbucks in India doesn’t even serve chai tea lattes because its really a joke and no one would order it.

Fresh, homemade chai flowing free and all-day-long is one of the things that I love about living in my Himalayan town. No cup is the same. And my neighbor Kalpana will tell you that the width and material of the pot you make it in will influence the taste. Some days I drink chai from up to four different locations throughout the day. Of course… it helps that we work with a café!

So here’s a basic recipe for how chai is made in my house. I wish I could make it for every reader out there. But since I can’t, I hope that some of you go get the ingredients and enjoy making it yourself. It takes a little effort (no teabag and electric water kettle for us!) but once you’ve made it, you get to sit down, close your eyes, and imagine you were right here. Breathe deep, watching the pack donkeys climbing the path outside, your breath in the cold, and warm your hands on that cup.   Let me know if you try it and what you think!

You’ll need to go to a store that has boxed real Indian ground tea leaves like Red Label or Taj Mahal. Mine comes with five spices added in, but we then add the ingredients fresh anyway.You’ll need these utensils:

A pot

A strainer

A tablespoon or similarA ceramic or metal or clay mug (no to-go caraffes accepted around here. It ruins the idea of sitting down to drink a cup of chai! It’s a tea break, people! We poor Americans and our everything-to-go-on-the-road-nonstop-lives.)

Then you’ll need ingredients:

Ground tea leaves (preferably of Indian origin)

Whole Milk


Masala (spices)… try choosing at least two of the following:

Fresh ginger root, grated, Cardamom pods, Cinnamon bark/sticks, Cloves, Star anise.

So you put half water, half milk in the pot along with a spoon of tea grounds for every cup you’ll drink. You can put all of that in cold and turn the burner on high.

Next you wait for it to boil while you add in as much as you want of the spices, and sugar, to taste.

Allow it to boil up, then take it off the burner (here we lower the fire, but if you have an electric oven it doesn’t cool fast enough, and your chai boils over). Then put it back on to boil up again. Do this 3 times, and its ready.

Pour chai through a strainer into your mug.Because the milk boiled, you’ll get that skin on the top of your cup. I dislike it and peel it off. Some people here love it like it’s a treat!


(FYI You can leave the pot on the stove and keep adding milk and/or supplies throughout the day to reheat and enjoy more chai.)



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