The explosion of tea infusions in today’s market always takes me back to masala chai and various spices that can help you make a wonderful cup at home. Read on for my favourites!
A warm cup of tea is what I crave early in the morning, and after a night of socializing it has to be both strong and soothing. We had a bunch of friends over for dinner last night and though it was a lot of fun, the morning found me with a heavy head and some aching muscles. Tea works well to relieve headaches and has a soothing effect which is attributed to the presence of L-theanine, which causes something close to a meditative state.
In India tea is called chai. I have come across chai tea lattes in America and Canada. This term is really a misnomer, since it translates in to tea tea latte! Tea is typically not a latte and neither is it made with cold milk. For the seasoned tea drinker from the Indian subcontinent the beverage served as tea in this part of the world is unsatisfactory.
So today I am revealing my method of making a cup or two of typical Indian tea with a dash of added flavours.
First off, the process of making tea.
For one cup of tea you will need:
- 3/4th cup water
- 1/4th to 1/2 cup milk
- 1 tsp of black tea leaves
- Sugar to taste
Put a pan of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Now throw in the tea leaves. If you put in the tea leaves at this point it takes just a few seconds for the flavours to seep into the water. Keep the water on boil until you see the colour you like, I personally like to see the water reach an almost dark brown to blackish colour before adding milk to the tea. Cold milk will instantly bring down the temperature. Cover the pan with a lid and bring it to boil before turning off the stove. This ensures that the milk doesn’t taste too raw and the water and milk combine well to give a smooth taste. Strain the brew into a cup, add sugar to taste and enjoy with some tea biscuits or a slice of cake!
An evening cup of tea for me is often not for a kick of caffeine but for waking up the taste buds. So, I usually add flavourings to my evening tea. The seeds and pods that I use go in right at the beginning, I bring them to boil before adding tea leaves. I like the flavours to be prominent but if you prefer a mild flavouring then throw in the seeds with the tea leaves.
Some of my favourites are;
- Fennel seeds, known as saunf in Hindi – These seeds are aromatic and lend a sweet flavour to the tea, so much so that you can forgo the sugar.
- Cardamom pods, crushed or powdered – Cardamom is known as elaichi in Hindi, it is used commonly to flavour Indian desserts. Cardamom imparts a woody flavour which has a hint of sweetness.
- Cloves, known as laung in Hindi – This spice is multifaceted. It is used from flavouring basmati rice, to black lentils and kidney beans to tea. Clove has a strong flavour that is also woody and warm unlike cardamom which has a cooling effect.
- Tulsi leaves or tulsi green tea – Back in India, my home has always had tulsi plants. Tulsi is considered sacred in the Indian tradition and while I do not pray to the plant itself, my family and I are fans of it. My grandmother insists on adding tulsi leaves to her breakfast tea and plucks a few leaves for all of us to chew. They do taste delicious! But I will warn you, it is an acquired taste. In America, I do not have a tulsi plant so I resorted to using Organic India’s tulsi green tea bags. These tea bags were a staple back home too, finding it in the local Indian grocery made my day! The process for steeping tulsi is the same as the other flavourings. Tulsi imparts a minty, floral flavour with a mild sweetness.
There are no rules for flavouring tea. Throw in whatever excites your taste buds and enjoy!