Chai ※ A Cup of Comfort

On Sunday, as the edges of Hurricane Sandy were moving toward London, we felt the need for a warm and comforting drink. A cup of chai seemed just the ticket — spicy, aromatic and comforting.

I turned to two sources for inspiration:  the cookbook Everyday Indian by Bal Arneson and the blog Kiran’s Cooking Club, which is a beautiful, informative and inspiring source for Indian cooking. From these references I learned the basics of chai, including the fact that one should adjust the spices to suit one’s tastes. With that in mind, and using the two recipes as starting points, I adjusted the spices to suit my liking. It took only two attempts to arrive at a recipe that I’m happy with.

Sunday’s version, pictured in this post, was somewhat weak due to using too much water, and the spicing, while good, didn’t quite achieve the note I was looking for. Tonight I made some more, to sip while blogging, and this time I used half as much water and added a star anise (I wish I had thought of that on Sunday; it would have looked so pretty on the plate!). The verdict? We were much more pleased with today’s version, and I know I will make it many times.

As for the hurricane, its effects were quite mild here. Yes, some tree limbs went down and there was a lot of rain, but compared to the devastation experienced in some areas we were very fortunate. I wish those affected by this terrible storm comfort and the strength to rebuild. And as I sit here and sip my chai, I do so humbled by the capricious strength of Nature and with a grateful heart that we were spared her fury.

Chai — My Version

The inspiration for this recipe comes from Bal Arneson’s Everyday Chai recipe in Everyday Indian and Kiran’s Cooking Club’s recipe for My Everyday Chai, here. I encourage you to adjust the ingredients to create your own version to suit your tastes too. This recipe is enough for two cups of chai.

  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 1 black cardamom pod
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 black peppercorns
  • 1 star anise
  • 1/2-inch piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • about a half-inch square of fresh ginger (the first time I grated frozen ginger)
  • two heaping tsps brown sugar
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 black tea bags
  • 1/2 cup milk (whatever kind you prefer)

Crush the spices, ginger and sugar in a mortar with a pestle, enough to release the flavours. Bring the water to boil in a pan, add the spice mixture and let boil for a couple of minutes. Add the tea bags and milk and bring back to a boil. Be careful not to let it boil over (i.e., mine did). Lower the heat to a simmer and let the mixture cook slowly for about 15 more minutes. Savour the aroma that is scenting your home while the chai is cooking. Strain into cups. Enjoy and relax.

16 comments

    • One of the wonderful things about chai, apart from drinking it, is how good it makes the house smell. In her cookbook, Bal Arneson says she makes it after a meal to freshen the air in the house after making curries.

  1. I’d wondered how badly Sandy had impacted your area, Mar, and am glad to read that it wasn’t anything severe, unlike the East Coast.
    I’ve yet to jump on the chai bandwagon but I’m not much of a tea drinker. Espresso? Yes. Tea? Not so much. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to try it, eh?

    • Oh, it never hurts to try! I’ve been buying chai lattes from Starbucks from time to time; they’re good, but very sweet. I’m happier with the version that I’ve made. Hmm, I bet I could add foamed milk or whatever they do to make a latte. Oh lord, something else to look up and try. I can see how this blogging this is an endless affair!

  2. An Indian friend of mine taught me how to make chai his way Mar…like you, I found my own way which varied only slightly. Honestly, I can’t think of a drink more satisfying this time of year when the wet winds blow. Yours looks like a great cupful Mar!

    • It’s such a pleasure to personalize a recipe like this to suit your own tastes. One of the sources I consulted even talked about using more ‘medicinal’ ingredients when you needed them, such as peppercorns and cloves. As you can see from my recipe, I decided to include some of those all the time. Until, of course, I decide to vary the recipe again.

      You are right; this is a very satisfying drink when the weather is nasty (and also when it’s nice out!).

  3. I’ve always wanted to make chai — so glad to have this recipe! I also love your photos, especially how the colours of the leaves are picked up in the colours of the spices. Gorgeous! (And, glad that you were spared by Sandy’s wrath, as we were here in Toronto as well. We are so fortunate.)

  4. I love warm milky chai and now that our weather is cooler, I’ve got to make some again. I’m so glad you’re fine, that storm was the scariest event I’ve seen in a long while.. and now that we all have met via blogging, it was difficult to know who was affected!! Very frightening!

    • That was a frightening storm, Barb. It wasn’t too bad here in London. My Mom lives near Sarnia and she said wind gusts there were in excess of 121 km/h. Unbelievable! We are so, so fortunate to have been spared the devastation suffered by so many.

      One of the wonderful things about the blogging experience is all the people we meet, and that certainly translates into concern on a broader scale when events such as these happen. This blogging community is a pretty special group of people.

  5. the homemade chai looks so good 🙂 i never knew you could home-make it – but now i’m gonna give it a go! great photos too! – nothing like a comforting mug of chair 🙂

    • It’s funny, there are some foods that I’ve always had pre-prepared and don’t think about making myself. When I was a little girl, my mother always made pudding using a boxed mix, even though she made all sorts of other complicated things from scratch. I still remember how surprised I was to find a recipe for it in a cookbook. Enjoy your chai! The beauty of it is that you can customize it to suit your particular tastes.

      • same here!! i remember being shocked when i was really little finding out that cake doesn’t have to be made from a packet mix but can be made from scratch haha
        i will! – really looking forward to making it 🙂

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