July 20, 2011

Alternatives To Coffee: Indian Chai Tea

A Delhi Chai Wallah serves up India's favourite hot beverage
As competition for increasingly scarce resources grows, and we continue to gorge on what is left of our ravaged planet, commodity prices are spiraling off their graphs. This includes the price of the world's favorite caffeine delivery system - coffee.

The price of coffee, although dropping a bit recently, is up 52% for the year. It is set to increase another 50% over the next 365 days. What is a thrifty hot beverage lover to do? How about an exotic, less expensive alternative?

Coffee price change over the past year

Since quitting coffee last year, one alternative in particular has found its way into my diet. Not only is it extremely yummy, but it also elicits wonderful memories of India.

Indian Chai Tea Recipe

While in India ten years ago, coffee was not common, so Chai Tea was the hot beverage of choice. I came to love it and all its unique, spicy goodness. Now, every time I have a steamy cup I am transported back to cafes, chai stalls, wandering sacred cows, and sunsets over the Arabian Sea. Tranquility soon follows.

There is no need to buy expensive pre-made chai mixes or syrups. To make a simple, delicious Chai Tea at home, this recipe will do the trick. I have been perfecting it as preparation for a future career as a Chai Wallah.

5 cups          water
5 bags          black tea
10                whole cardamom
5                  whole cloves (or 1 tsp powdered)
5                  black peppercorns 
1 tsp             cinnamon (or 1/2 stick)
1 tsp             nutmeg (grated or powdered)
1 tsp             ginger (powdered, or piece of fresh)
2 tsp             vanilla (optional)
to taste         sweetener (I use 1/3 - 1/2 cup of sugar)

Add water to a suitably sized pot and bring to a boil. As water comes to a boil add all the other ingredients. Simmer covered for about 5 minutes. Warning: your home will smell distinctly exotic during this process. Take off burner and set aside covered to steep for 15-20 minutes.

After steeping take the tea bags out. Mix (in cups or a separate pan) equal parts of chai tea mixture and milk. Be careful not to pour the spices in, too, although a cardamom pod gives your cup a nice touch. Heat for a minute or two in a microwave oven, or in a small sauce pan on the stove top. Enjoy.

Left over chai can be strained and poured into a glass jar to be refrigerated for later, and can be served with milk over ice for a spicy cool drink.

Who knew quitting coffee could be so good? Escape the high price of coffee, and try chai tea.

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