As a drinker of purebred coffees and teas, I was skeptical about chai and its maelstrom of spices, its blast of sugar. I lumped chai drinkers in with owners of tiny, transportable dogs and wearers of miniskirts with UGGs (full disclosure: I almost bought a pair last year. Almost.)
Then, a few years ago, I was writing about Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford, who had just published Mangoes & Curry Leaves. And there in their book was a recipe for Cardamom Chai. I was surprised by the ingredients, which were nothing more than milk, Assam tea, freshly crushed cardamom and sugar. Their chai recipe is one they modeled on Indian chai shops, and is made by boiling the tea for a minute or so before whisking in a cardamom-infused milk and a whisper of sugar. I gave it a try and it soon became not only a personal addiction but a favorite household pick-me-up when our kids were toddlers and the afternoons were long. When I’d call my friend Elyse to set up a playdate, she’d ask, “Are you making the chai?” Before you know it, I may be buying a miniature dog. —Amanda Hesser
- Makes about 5 cups, serves 2 to 4
About 6 cups water
Seeds from 1 green cardamom pod, ground
heaping tablespoons black tea leaves, preferably strong-tasting Assam tea
sugar, or to taste
- Heat the water to a boil. In a separate pan, heat the milk to a boil, stir in the cardamom, cover, and set aside.
- Place the tea leaves in a heavy pot. Pour in a little of the hot water, then pour it off. Add the remaining hot water. Place over medium heat, bring to a boil, and boil for about 30 seconds, then pour the tea through a strainer into a pot.
- Add the hot milk by pouring it through a cloth-lined strainer into the tea. Add the sugar and stir. If you wish to froth the tea, pour the mixture into another pot, then pour it back, continuing until it's frothy.
- Place the pot back over the heat and bring the tea almost to the boil, then pour it into cups.