A Thousand Words In a Cup of Chai

Cardamom. Cinnamon. Clove. Spices that were once worth more than gold and silver. Spices that once traveled the ancient trade routes from Asia, moving through the Middle East and North Africa into the Roman Empire, and later, into Renaissance Europe. With each pinch of cardamom and each crushed clove, you step back a thousand years to desert winds, cutthroat merchants, and silks and gold and jewels trading hands for just a taste of these elusive flavors.

Each cup of chai we drink holds the wisdom of a thousand words, as the history of spice is really a history of the world, right up to the present day. You can trace the evolution of global trade along its winding routes. Its aromas lingered in the courts of kings and queens. Colonialism, with its brutal oppression and injustice, sprang up partly as an effort to control spice markets, and the British East India Company launched an empire and owned the seas for more than one hundred years.

Chai tea, as we know it today, would have been the ultimate in luxury once upon a time. And so, we can all be kings and queens for an afternoon - or a day - spent nestled on a cozy couch, waiting for winter to arrive. 

Homemade Chai
Recipe adapted from Real Simple's Easy Chai Tea.

You'll need:
1/4 tspn cinnamon
1/8 tspn cardamom
8 cloves
4 black peppercorns
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced into 3-4 smaller pieces
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 1/2 cups water
4 bags black tea
Sugar to taste

1. Crush the cloves and peppercorns by placing them in a ziplock bag and crushing them with a heavy skillet. Slice the 1-inch piece of ginger into 3-4 smaller pieces.

2. Place the crushed spices, cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger in a medium saucepan. Add the milk and water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, add the tea bags, and let steep, covered, for 10 minutes.

3. If you won't drink all of the chai immediately, strain it into airtight tupperware and store in the fridge for up to five days. Otherwise, strain it directly into teacups.

Serve with as much sugar as you like. The recipe calls for 2 teaspoons per cup, but I prefer to add just 1/2 teaspoon for a milder sweetness.

And voilà!

Yours truly, one queenly sip at a time,



Nicola @ unhip squirrel said...

I absolutely loved this post. Not only am I a chai fanatic, but your description was so evocative! Beautifully written, beautiful tea. Thanks for sharing this. :)

Radina Valova said...

Thank you so much, Nicola! And I apologize for the delayed reply to your kind words - I have been MIA with law school final exams and am only now coming out of the mire :) I'm glad you enjoy chai, it really is a pleasure!