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Kerry Beal

DIY Chai

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In the search for my ideal Orange Pekoe I've picked up a box of tea from Lee Valley. It's a nice tea, kind of leathery and a bit smoky - not what I'm looking for for my daily cuppa - but I realize it would make a great base for chai.

I'm pretty sure that I'll put green cardamon pods in there and probably some black peppercorns, maybe some saigon cinnamon - but I'm curious to know what folks like as their spice blend in chai.

Do you grind, crush or just mix the whole spices together with the tea?

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This little web site has been around for well over ten years and I have often referred to the recipes listed. From time to time something new has been added and a few hints and tips - check the Best way to get Indian flavor link.

My favorite is somewhat similar to the Masala chai.

I normally use green or white cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, black peppercorns, sometimes red peppercorns, and a few cloves plus a chunk of candied ginger or a knob of fresh.

I crush the spices in a mortar and my particular method is to stew them in milk along with a couple of fresh bay leaves (I have two bushes) and then mix the milk and brewed tea together - although this is not the traditional method, I like the result.

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This little web site has been around for well over ten years and I have often referred to the recipes listed.  From time to time something new has been added and a few hints and tips - check the Best way to get Indian flavor link.

My favorite is somewhat similar to the Masala chai.

I normally use green or white cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, black peppercorns, sometimes red peppercorns, and a few cloves plus a chunk of candied ginger or a knob of fresh.

I crush the spices in a mortar and my particular method is to stew them in milk along with a couple of fresh bay leaves (I have two bushes) and then mix the milk and brewed tea together - although this is not the traditional method, I like the result.

Funny, I was just reading that exact link.

I would never have thought of the pink peppercorn - but it would be a nice addition - I love the flavour.

Do you make it a cup at a time - or do you mix up a batch of the spices?

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One perrpective from a Indian: chai is not a flavored tea, but milk flavored WITH tea PLUS cardamom and other spices, perhaps ginger, and maybe some or or not.

Flavored hot milk is the UR idea, with saffron and/or cardamom, as the original drink.

Black Tea fannings & such became a Heaven-sent gift to northern India.

Coffee-flavored milk already had had a long innings in Southern India before this, in the form of Filter Coffee, a strong decoction added to boiling milk.

So, one perspective may be to appreciate the smoky flavor of the milk, even better in clay drinking vessels, accentuated by the flavor of tea & heightened by not more than one or two other flavors.

Milk used to have very rich taste and a definite aroma in India. It was easy to distinguish the evening milking from the dawn milking, and the two specific butters made from each. Specific milch breeds were renowned for particular milks for particular uses, drinking milks, for making Bengali sweets, saschanaka, cows, various buffaloes: riverine buffaloes, montane buffaloes, etc. etc. No more!!!


Edited by v. gautam (log)

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One perrpective from a Indian: chai is not a flavored tea, but milk flavored WITH tea PLUS cardamom and other spices, perhaps ginger, and maybe some or or not.

Flavored hot milk is the UR idea, with saffron and/or cardamom,  as the original drink.

Black Tea fannings & such became a Heaven-sent gift to northern India.

Coffee-flavored milk already had had a long innings in Southern India before this, in the form of Filter Coffee, a strong decoction added to boiling milk.

So, one perspective  may be to appreciate the smoky flavor of the milk, even better in clay drinking vessels, accentuated by the flavor of tea & heightened by not more than one or two other flavors.

Milk used to have very rich taste and a definite aroma in India. It was easy to distinguish the evening milking from the dawn milking, and the two specific butters made from each.  Specific milch breeds were renowned for particular milks for particular uses, drinking milks, for making Bengali sweets, saschanaka, cows, various buffaloes: riverine buffaloes, montane buffaloes, etc. etc. No more!!!

Very true - I should have called it DIY Masala Chai - ever better ring to it!

I did notice that one of the recipes I found said to use half and half - that even whole milk isn't rich enough.

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I did notice that one of the recipes I found said to use half and half - that even whole milk isn't rich enough.

And, interestingly enough, my favorite coffeehouse here uses only skim milk when they make chai, because they say it holds the foam better.

MelissaH

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I did notice that one of the recipes I found said to use half and half - that even whole milk isn't rich enough.

And, interestingly enough, my favorite coffeehouse here uses only skim milk when they make chai, because they say it holds the foam better.

MelissaH

I think though that when they make the milky chai in India that they don't foam the milk.

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I did notice that one of the recipes I found said to use half and half - that even whole milk isn't rich enough.

And, interestingly enough, my favorite coffeehouse here uses only skim milk when they make chai, because they say it holds the foam better.

MelissaH

I have never been able to prove this because I can foam whole milk or half and half with no trouble at all.

I even use a Froth Au Lait which suggests using skim milk but I always use whole milk or half & half.

I uploaded this photo to Imagegullet and included it in a post back in Nov. 2004 showing how it works with half & half.

gallery_17399_60_1100044628.jpg

gallery_17399_60_1100044678.jpg

And regarding v.gautam's comment. That is what I meant by my process not being the traditional one where the tea is stewed in the milk along with the spices.

And to answer your previous question, I mix a batch of spices, crush them and put them in a sealed jar, enough to last for just a few days because I think they lose strength rapidly.


Edited by andiesenji (log)

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Great topic -- I've often wondered what defines a real Chai tea, and when it becomes something else.

I love making a mug of something new using hot water or dairy, plus spices. Recently, it's been microwaved 2% milk plus cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom from the microplane, frapped with the Braun stick blender. Yum.

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I usualy make it with taj mahal ctc, put the tea and spice...

usualy just cardamom, sometimes cardamom with ginger or black pepper, once in a while, cloves star anise, cardamom, and ginger ...i like to use black cardamom for the smokey taste.

I boil the tea and spices for a few minutes, well stewed, then add milk and a little sugar, and bring it to the boil three times.

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BTW.. they do foam milk in India.. they pour it amazingly rapidly between two cups, making a giant stream. This aerates the milk, and foams it up.

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One could experiment with this method: it releases fewer of the bitter, stronger tannins that boiling together with milk does, and seems to preserve a few more of the delicate tea aromas [maybe just my imagination] : scald or infuse your milk, milk/water fraction, with gently pounded WHOLE green cardamoms, not too many! Do this low and slow: boiling and hurrying evokes weird cardamom notes from Guatemalan cardamom, the kind we ususally get here, and also gives you caramelized milk flavors, cherished by some but not by all.

In a separate activity, bound to delight Richard, infuse your tea. That way you may control your mix, whether or not to use any CTC, or blend Assam + Darjeeling leaf, or drop in a bit of leaf Pu-erh of the cheaper sort [btw, Yunnan has a dramatic Pu-erh glut these years owing to overplanting, $3-4 kg for new & for many years to come, so the astronomical prices here seem astonishing]. You can control infusion time and any variable you choose, including water temperature. Plus, there is the possibility of re-infusion and clearing one's palate at a later time.

Strain A + B into your favorite drinking vessel, to your desired tea/milk proportions. Sweeten or not but NEVER with STEVIA, that completely destroys tea flavor [at least to my taste buds].

The other thing I dislike is straining milky tea leaves or CTC. It wreaks havoc on any metal strainer, in the sense that I am never sure of getting all the milky residue out of every hole. In the method above, tea stays with its own strainers, that are easily cleaned and are no bacteriological hazard. The milk, by not being cooked hard, leaves less of a hard protein film on the vessel's bottom (so no clogged-up sponges). With no powdered spice, I do not need to strain that either. I am just a lunatic; others need not share my phobias about these things and about the relative ease of clean-up.

Mind you, tea boiled in milk to release the bitter edge is called "kadak" or amruttulya chai in Maharashtra. Making virtue out of necessity, incompetence or brass taste buds & stomachs, it now has fierce proponents, much like the Fried Slice does in the traditional Cockney breakfast. Never to let something alone, Indians must always justify everything by its secret, intrinsic goodness, in this case, alleged health giving properties, and congratuate themselves for instinctively homing in to such things!! Some clown who imagines himself a great scientist by virtue of being located in the US and holding down a high-paying job in an electronic firm wrote such a paean to this boiled tea.

The man canot understand that it is boiled for the excellent reason that those tannins subdue hunger, just as tobacco and coffee do. In India, Afghanistan, even the British working classes late in the 19th century, tea had become an important food because of its ability to stave off hunger. Strong tea, that is, NOT Darjeeling!!

The Assam-Burma region, where one form, the BIG LEAF, used in Yunnan Pu-erh, orinated, long has used the leaf as food, pickled, in salads and as adjunct to savory food. This forms a class of a great variety of forest leaves eaten here, incuding citrus leaves, another plant that originated and was domesticated here.

We can imagine the evolution of tea drinking, along with the spread of the iron culture of this region, moving steadily north into colder regions and the pickling turning into pickling + drying, fermentation + drying.

PS. YP, wrote you a detailed [long!!] reply right on receipt, but mislaid the file inside another and am scrambling to find it. Strange but true. Will eventually get it out. Sorry for the delay!!


Edited by v. gautam (log)

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I am the weirdo that likes the tannin, and also the taste of well boiled milk.

But the straining is a pain. getting the last of the milk off the strainer is not a fun job. I use whole spices, I don't like powdered because they don't taste right, and make a funny texture to me, and i often don't strain it well. I pour it from the pot to the up with a saucer over the edge of the pot to keep the ctc and spices in.

I also like the taste of the tea. I cant stand it when it is overwhelmed in spice or sugar.

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You are NOT a weirdo! At least 1 billion of the 1.2 nowin the subcontinent will applaud you for being an intrinsis spiritual genius, latching on to the innate qualities of AMRUT TULYA Chai. Read all about it here!!

http://www.gourmetindia.com/Amrut-tulya-te...356.html&p=8478

"...the “bad bitter” things from the tea. But what do you know ? - so called these bad things, plentiful in Amrut tulya tea now appear to be the “magical compounds” for our health ....Most of the information people have followed from the books regarding "how to make a perfect cup of tea" reflects the English taste and is not relevant to us Indians, Secondly, they do not reflect about our current scientific knowledge about benefits of tea. Moreover, all the emphasis is on the value of flavor and taste; today, we should drink tea not for its taste alone, but because it is good for you. [!!!!, mine]......"

And here's the clincher, besides Indian innate spiritual omniscience: their innate ability to glom on to SCIENTIFIC TRUTH, no less, just as PP did!!

"And snobbish so called “civilized” people looking down on "Amrut tulya" tea should be reminded of that Amrut tulya is as good and perhaps more scientific than other methods."

!!!!

BTW, if you are preparing chai in a saucepan your way, since you have it on boil, it will not hurt to cool bit to drinking temperature. Let it stand in the pan. More yummy tannins might seep out, but the leaf, ctc, spice, gunk etc. will fall to the bottom. Now carefully decant. With a little wristwork, you can get 97+% of the chai into your mug(s) or in separate teapot in a swift decisive motion. There will be very little liquid left behind, a worthwhile sacrifice compared to the horror & angst of cleaning wire strainers. What do you think?

And the best part is, the few ctc or cardamom that do get in to your mug, make a delightful addition. Between sips one may chew or nibble on abstractedly (or thoughtfully) on the little bitter explosions or the chewy contrast of the cardamom, alternating it with tea and ruminating about much. But then I am someone who enjoys chewing upon and even eating the spent Orthodox tea leaves after they are softened by multiple infusions. I love their taste and can undersand why the Maungs and Burmese prize preserved tea leaf in their type of "salad'' [ not really a salad but what is called an upkari in India].


Edited by v. gautam (log)

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More news on the milk + tea combination!

Adding milk to tea negates health benefits: Study

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-c...fits--study--02

..Charite Hospital at the University of Berlin in Mitte found that adding milk to the tea eliminates the protective effect against cardiovascular disease, Health News reported...

..black tea significantly improved blood flow as compared to drinking water but adding milk blunted the effect of the tea. ..

The findings could explain why in countries such as Britain, where tea is regularly consumed with milk, have not shown a decreased risk of heart disease and stroke from drinking tea....."

BTW, Swami Vivekananda [1861-1902] applauded the drinking of tea in its green or black forms as the Chinese did, calling it immensely therapeutic, labelling the milk + tea concoction as "mahavisha", great poison!!

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The milk/health of tea issue makes total sense. I have always wondered about why, if tea is so healthy, are the English and Irish so totally unhealthy, ad at least in my family who drank tea every few hours, so prone to heart attacks and strokes.

I have also thought about the tannin/milk/taste issue. I grew up on the heavy tannin modified with milk and or sugar style of tea. I like it. As Gautam says above, I share this taste with a lot of people. As an aside, as i understand it, the older Irish way to prepare tea was like Indian style, was to boil it with milk and sugar. No one does it like that now though.

Does it make sense for me to think I do not share this taste with many Americans? My reading of a lot of these threads lead me to believe that for many people in the US their entry to tea drinking was iced tea.

Iced tea undeniably tastes better with fewer tannins, at least as it is prepared in this country, and most of the America store brand teas, us lipton, rose etc, are very untannic,. And this is a taste profile that has become familiar to people?

I find a lot of times, as Richard Kilgore said, different words bring different associations to people, to me e.g. a movie described as lyrical, is long and boring. Many teas described as "sweet" strike me as bland, or vegetal.....and it seems to me american tastes run to these teas. (I am in NO WAY sugesting this is bad or less, but just sayin')

and perhaps i am just unemployed with far too much time to think!

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Iced Tea for the South, like Rhubarb Pie or rhubarb anything for the Yankees, is merely an excuse for consuming insane quantities of sugar while pretending not to! It is merely lemonade tinged brown, one of those delightful American affectations like pink lemonade. Whyever for? And Sun Tea?!!! Give me the Flower Children who brew such and be done with it!

If you add southern "biscuits'' to that [something that dismays Indians terribly when they go seeking their beloved Britannia Marie or digestives] I think tea leaves offer posiibilities for more exciting fantasies than fig leaves. I dare not speculate about the rhubarb, whether stalks or leaves! Unlike you, YP, I have not, not too much time on my hands but too perfervid an imagination brought about by arteries hardened (and brain starved of blood) by decades milk boiled with tea fannings.


Edited by v. gautam (log)

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