Indian chai for many is part of a daily ritual to be enjoyed in the morning with breakfast. It is also a warm treat enjoyed with friends. Served with fresh snacks in the afternoon, it is refreshing and a lovely way to relax.
The traditional drink is made with black tea, milk, ginger and spices (like black pepper, cardamom, and clove). It is good for digestion and tea has a lower caffeine content than coffee. It is easy to grow herbs in your garden that make fantastic combinations for chai. In fact, at the Soil&Water garden in Heritage Park, we have planted many herbs that are great for tea. Make sure you harvest some of these herbs next time you join a workday.
Basic chai recipe (ginger): Add fresh grated ginger to 1 cup water and boil until you smell an aroma. Add 1-2 teaspoon loose black tea to boiling water. Add 1 cup milk, chai masala (mix of spices) and sugar (optional) to taste. Continue to heat until the milk causes the mixture to rise. Allow the mixture to rise but not overflow the pan 2-3 times and then take off the heat. Strain and enjoy. Makes 2 cups. If you don't drink milk, you can add a milk alternative of choice. Almond milk or soy milk work well.
Here are a few other chai favorites from gardeners at Soil&Water:
Mint chai: Use fresh grated ginger. Use same method as above. Add mint and chai masala (optional) at the same time you add your milk.
Cardamom chai: Use same basic chai method as above. Add cardamom (to taste) instead of chai masala at the very end after removing from heat. I like mine with a lot of cardamom!
Lemongrass chai: Add fresh lemongrass and grated ginger to 1 cup water and boil until you smell an aroma. Add 1 teaspoon loose black tea to boiling water and 1 cup milk (or milk alternative), and chai masala and continue to heat until the milk causes the mixture to rise. Add sugar to taste. Enjoy! Adds a lemony flavor.
At the garden we are also growing chocolate mint, this herb added to black tea makes a really nice chocolat-y-mint black tea. I personally add this alone without any other flavors since it is a strong flavor alone. Works well as a simple black tea bag steeped in a mug and add the mint to it.
What is your favorite chai recipe? Please share so others can try it too. Leave it as a comment below! If you decide to experiment with a flavor combination, I'd love to hear about it.