Thursday, November 15, 2007

What is Chai?

Chai is a cool word. I love saying it, because it reminds me of something really sweet. Before I tell you what, though, you should take a look at what Chai actually means:
1. It´s the Russian word for any type of tea.
2. It`s the name of a very specific and unusual type of drink from India. describes said drink as "the perfect blend of freshly ground spices (chai masala) like cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom and pepper, added to a boiling pot of loose leaf tea and milk to make a delicious, satisfying and healthy beverage."

Now, down to why I just love that darn word. A bit ago I was traveling with my mother into the States. The fun thing about this trip was that we kept getting these delays. First off, the day we set out to the big city with an airport, the plane turned out to be full, so we went all the way back with our own private chauffuer and didn´t bother unpacking. (Have I mentioned this was my first time having a chauffuer?) Next day, bright and early another car picked us up from the gate, and we had an air-conditioned ride to the airport, came to Philly, trucked our 5 or so suitcases through the metal detectors, and at the gate were promptly told Burlington Airport was having a storm and we`d have to go tomorrow. (Awesome!) Well, my mother made a fair reek about how the airline already delayed us one day, and next thing we knew we were packed in an SUV with our pockets full of vouchers for a hotel in New Jersey. Gloucester, to be exact.
It had a fine Indian restaurant, a bar with a real pool table, and that roadside-America charm, not to mention a hair dryer and tub in the bathroom (neither of those things I have at home). The weather that afternoon, as we came fresh from looking at the smoky industrialness of the place, was my favorite, and when we came down for dinner it had started to rain. I think I had a spicy soup with either corn or coconut--and my mom ordered a curry that she didn´t like--but what I really remember is checking out the drinks at the back of the menu and thinking, heck, this is free?
"Hey, I`ll have one of these."
By now there was a storm out the covered window by our table, and the waiter brought a low cup that steamed of spices. Beside it was a small metal pitcher of warm milk. I added the milk to the chai slowly and finally it was just hot enough to not burn yourself drinking, but I shouldn`t have waited; the peppery, gingery heat was just as strong as boiling water.
Chai is an unusual tea, and the good kind reminds me of spicy coffee because you add milk. It`s a very adventurous one too, at least for me--if I was going to climb Everest, the first thing I`d throw in my bag would be chai masala because it warms you right up. Then, of course, a hot plate and soymilk.
The point is, that night was a perfect example of what makes tea superior to coffee, Red Bull, whatever your elixir is currently--the smell, the taste, the warmth brings you back to something you like, whether it`s a day the thermometer let you off school, or that first love story you finished at a WiFi cafe. Everything else just gives you a jolt forward, which isn´t all bad, but there are times when you`re better off looking over your shoulder, smiling, and thinking something happy for about ten minutes. Those times are made for tea.

For 2 cups of chai:

1. In a pot, heat 1 cup water & 1 cup milk.

2. Add 1/5 teaspoon Chai Masala

3. Add 2 teaspoons Tea Leaves. (Darjeeling are good, any black tea is cool too)

4. Stir occasionally & bring to a boil.

5. Strain & add sugar or honey to sweeten and enjoy!

Prepared chai will have a golden brown hue.

1 comment:

Laura said...

Great story writing. I could almost feel and smell that chai. Well done!