What’s your cup of chai?

“Chai tou piyange?” which translates to “will you have chai?” is a common phrase that you hear if you live in or are visiting an Indian household. Chai is an essential drink in India.  It can even be considered rude if you don’t serve chai to guests visiting your house,  as Indians are known for their warm hospitality.  If you are Indian, you know that your morning is not complete without a cup of  garam (hot) chai.  Chai is the national hot drink of India. It is no surprise that India is one of the largest  producers of tea in the world, with  more than half of it being consumed domestically. 

What is Chai?

You may  have heard of “Chai Tea” (which translates to “Tea Tea”) while visiting your local coffee shop. Chai is made with strong, black, loose leaf tea that has been boiled with milk and sugar. There is no defined recipe for chai. Rather, there are many variations on how to make it, and everyone has their own preference. Some people mix water, milk, sugar and black tea together and let it come to a boil, while others prefer to boil water and black tea together first, then add milk and sugar separately at the end. While some prefer to use black loose tea,  others prefer tea bags. Chai is very different from herbal teas found in cafes. Traditional Indian chai requires boiling, and it is not complete without milk. Let’s go over the most common types of chai found in India:

1. Masala Chai

This is perhaps the most common chai you will find  in India. The tea is prepared with spices like ground cloves, ground cardamom, ground black peppercorn, ground nutmeg and cinnamon. It can also be made with  ready made masala chai powder. Masala chai has a spicy and creamy taste, and  is served with savory and sweet snacks like  cookies, papad, samosas, and pakoras.

2. Eliachi Chai(Cardamom Chai)

Green cardamom pods or cardamom powder is added to the black tea. Green cardamom produces a zesty citrus flavor that gives a sweet aromatic flavor to the chai. Eliachi chai can be served with mithai, an Indian sweet concoction.  Read all about Indian mithai here. 

3. Adraak Chai (Ginger Chai)

A must have winter delight, ginger chai is prepared with freshly grated ginger and cinnamon. Adraak chai has a strong yet distinct taste, and is often used to facilitate the healing of common colds. 

4. Kahwa 

Originating from Kashmir, kahwa is made with green tea infused with cardamom, cloves, and saffron. It does not include milk, and  is traditionally prepared in a metal kettle called samovar.  Kahwa is a winter specialty and is often served after a heavy meal as it is known to help digestion. 

5. Kashmiri Chai

Kashmiri Chai also known as noon chai or gulabi chai (pink tea). Kashmiri chai gained a cult following in the past few years, introducing it to restaurants, streetside cafes and weddings. This pink drink was initially only served to the royals due the sacred supply of Kashmiri tea leaves.  Unlike other chais which take a few minutes to prepare, kashmiri chai is time consuming. The taste is described as “creamsicle of flowers”.  Looking for a fail proof recipe to brew your cup of pink, check out our previous blog post. 

Now that we have presented you to the must have world of Indian chai, we suggest making a pit stop at your local Patel Brothers store to pick up some Indian tea from their selection of different varieties. 
Leave a comment to let us know which of these chai you have tried and which one is your go to favorite.

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About the author:

Hira Shaikh is a die-hard Chicagoan residing in Texas. She is an avid foodie and travel enthusiast who also enjoys creating new recipes in the kitchen. Besides her corporate job, her sweet tooth and passion for food lure her to hunt down instagrammable restaurants and cafes to try and critique.

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