A day without a glass of beer or wine is for many these days impossible to imagine. And hard to handle. But there are whole populations of people on this earth who do not dream of happy hour and who seem to get by quite nicely without the daily taste of alcohol. Pakistan is such a place. That doesn’t mean they are not addicted to drink. Just that their drink of choice, and one that is every bit a necessity, as beer is to the European, is tea.
Chai. چائے चाय চা
Several cups of milky sweetened strong tea makes the world go round in South Asia. They have saying in Urdu, that the world is founded on hope. That’s a ruse. It is founded on the black leaf of tea.
The above photo was made in side street off of Mall Road in Rawalpindi. Pakistanis have a lovely sense of colour and I tried to capture a bit of that in his picture with my just finished porcelain tea cup and saucer.
And the best way to drink tea is in the saucer. The next two picture were made (again) in Rawalpindi’s busy bazars on a chilly morning in January 1990.
I found this quaint ode to a cup of tea and how it should be made on the web.
First, all of these ingredient should be fresh (or as fresh as possible). You can get all these spices in Indian-american grocerry stores.
1. Brooke Bond Red label, Mamri, or Tajmahal Black tea [DO NOT USE GREEN OR LEAF TEA, IT WILL RUIN THE TASTE].2. Cloves, cinamon stick (good quality), fresh ginger (powder or prepackaged cannot be substituted), whole black pepper, cardomon pods.
3. Optional items: White khas-khas (Indian name of a spice, which is round dried seeds); and soanph (green dried, not roasted)
4. Half-and-Half milk. No other milk can be substituted (if you really want the taste of real chai)
PREPARATION METHOD FOR 1-CUP CHAI:
In a clean deep dish container, put 3/4 cup water, 1/2 cup milk (Half-and-Half), 1 full teaspoon black tea and spices as follows.
1 pod cardomon
2 pea size fresh ginger (mulched)
1-2 big size whole black pepper
1/8 to 1/6 cinnemon stick
On a hard piece of paper, crush all of them together. Immediately put this mix in dish with water and milk. Keep them on heater plate or gas range for about 15 minutes, keep stirring continuously. Add sugar to your taste. Drain on strainer and serve in a cup.
The idea is to burn water from the tea while mixing the spices into the leftover tea. You may have to experiment with the quantity of water and milk to the final quantity of tea. In my experience, 2:1 ratio works better, i.e. I use 2 cups of (milk + water) for making one cup of chai. 1 cup of water is burned in the process. This provides smooth taste of chai.
Please note: Chai making can be fun, but you cannot cut time. I have always made the best chais and never thought of time. Belive me it is time well spent.