I first encountered this Indian spiced milk tea in a tent when I was volunteering with TEAR at the Christian Arts and Music Festival, Blackstump in 2009. In this tent we would always have a pot or two of chai brewing because it was a popular and calming drink for festival-goers, it would educate them about the foods/drinks developing worlds consume and it would entice them into our venue as a performance space.
I loved chai then and I will probably always love it. Because of the flavours and it’s strong aromatic smell it has become a comfort drink for me. I will lean back against a soft surface, curl up and drink it usually in one short sitting (otherwise it becomes horribly cold and less flavoursome). I find the combination of cinnamon, cloves and cardamon a nice sweetness that is made mellow by the other spices. I definetly think that when I have a drink of it, my body is a little more awakened to the world around it!
Because I first knew chai tea as a drink which I learnt to make myself, I try my hardest to maintain a similar home-made level of perfection as I drink and enjoy chai. The whole process of making the tea: from grinding the spices to the dark red colours the black tea produce when stired around, and the creamy layer of milky bubbles that surface towards the end nurture a quiet joy in me. The festival was a special time to expand my growing interest in community life, the developing world and the arts so perhaps I am a little reminiscent every time a pot goes on the boil for this tea.
In my two years of searching, there has only been a few spots in Sydney I’ve found that offer a good home-made brew of Chai:
I don’t mind though, I can easily make two cups of hot and creamy chai with my own recipe!
4 heaped TBsp loose organic black tea
2 whole star anise
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp white peppercorns (a very sutble difference to black)
2 1/2 cinnamon bark, broken
10 cardamon pods, broken to release the pods
2-inch fresh ginger root, thinly sliced
1 vanilla bean or 1/2 tsp vanilla essence (optional – for an added touch)
preparing the spices: dry roast the spices and pods (except the ginger and vanilla bean) on a lined tray at 200°C for 3 – 5mins until they get aromatic. Then, transfer to a mortar and pestle and crush and grind them to a smaller but not insignificant amount.
making the chai: In a saucepan, fill 2 cups of water (or less if you prefer it milky) and bring 1 TBsp of chai tea spice to a boil. Let it steep and simmer for 15 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups to milk (or more if desired) and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add 2 TBsp honey and stir. Remove from the heat and strain in a tea pot or cups and serve hot. Breathe and enjoy!