In many parts of India, tea is a daily preoccupation. But whereas in the West, tea is consumed as-is, with only perhaps some milk and sugar, it is common in India to brew it strongly with a range of spices and herbs. It is always served sweet and very milky.
Masala Chai and Cutting Chai are well known tea drinks, but every Indian family will have their own range of herbs and spices that they include. It is very common to use ginger, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, perhaps mint and Tulsi (Indian Holy Basil). I have heard of curry leaves being added. Lemongrass, vanilla, black pepper, fennel, nutmeg, tej pata (Indian Bay Leaves), ashwagandha leaf, pepper, galangal are other possible additions.
Today’s Chai is Tulsi and Mint with Cinnamon Chai. It was such beautiful winter weather this morning, I drank chai in the garden.
Tulsi and Mint with Cinnamon Chai
2 cups water
2 teabags or 2 tspns black tea
1 Tbspn jaggery or brown sugar, or more if you are a sweet tooth
2.5 cm ginger, finely grated (grating extracts more flavour than chopping)
2 – 3 cardamom pods, crushed well and ground a little
0.5 cinnamon stick
1 lemongrass strand, cut into pieces
4 mint leaves
4 Tulsi leaves (optional, or use Basil)
0.5 – 0.75 cup milk
Heat the water in a small saucepan. Place on high heat and bring to the boil.
Add the finely grated ginger, stir and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cardamom pods and crushed cinnamon stick, and stir. Simmer for 2 more minutes, stirring once or twice.
Add the mint leaves and the tulsi leaves, if using, and stir. Bring back to the boil. Continue simmering for 5 minutes.
Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Bring back to the boil and simmer 2 minutes.
Add the tea bags or tea leaves, stir, and simmer for 3 – 4 minutes, stirring periodically.
Add milk, about 1/2 a cup, to bring to your desired milkiness. Stir and bring back to a simmer, simmer for a 2 – 3 minutes (watching carefully) and then strain and pour into glasses or cups.
Serve with biscuits or Indian snacks. It’s great with samosas, pakoras, indian sweets, biscuits, chips or cake.
You can add a clove to the chai as well, or some nutmeg.
Alternatively, add about a quarter teaspoon of black pepper – particularly good for colds.
Make the Chai with either mint or tulsi for an alternative.
Rather than adding ingredients individually, you can add them all together and simmer for 6 – 8 or so minutes.
You can also make a simpler version of this tea with just ginger, cardamom, tulsi and black tea. Add a little black pepper. Brew with or without milk and sweeten with honey. You can add a slice of lime if you make it without milk.