Guest Author: Tanisha
Tanisha wants to put chai on the map and introduce the authentic chai brewing experience to all those interested in trying. She enjoys learning about the cultural, social and scientific aspects of tea. She is love struck with chai, and hence the name chai struck!
Read on to find out:
- Who is Chai Struck?
- Tanisha’s inspirations - a little background on chai
- How to make a Yerba Mate Chai - clever and delicious!
Now let’s hear from Tanisha herself:
So Why Chai Struck?
Hello, I am Tanisha, and I am lovestruck with chai…hence Chai Struck! Chai reminds me of forbidden love from childhood (no caffeine for the kid!) and takes me of home no matter where I am in the world. I am fascinated by the history of this beverage and how it got introduced and popularized so recently in the Indian subcontinent. I am also drawn towards the culture and community of tea drinkers both virtually and in real life.
My background is in the environmental sciences and I enjoy learning about the science of tea both in terms of growing and brewing, but also its impact on human health.
I am currently pursuing to be a Tea Specialist and aspire to be a tea sommelier one day. You can find me on Instagram by the name of @Chai_Struck and also check out my YouTube channel where I’ve highlighted 20 types of chai, amongst other tea-based videos.
You may also like to subscribe to my Youtube so you don’t miss the launch of my new series called Tea Time Tales where I share stories while making chai on my YouTube page!
My Chai Inspiration
Chai is an essential part of many homes in the Indian subcontinent and is as diverse as the land itself.
Generally speaking, chai is made by brewing Assam CTC tea with water and adding milk, sugar and spices. Interestingly, the spices are “optional” and vary based on each region, household and personal taste.
Spice translates to masala (or some variation of it) in many Indian languages, meaning masala chai translates to spiced tea. Masala has different meanings depending on where you go in India and could range from ginger, cloves, fennel, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, peppercorn etc. However, you can also just make chai by omitting the spices- it just won’t be masala chai, but that does not take away from its merit of being chai.
For example, roadside tea vendors a.k.a. “chai wallas” may sell strong chai by brewing just the tea leaves in water, with lots of sugar and adding thick buffalo milk - yes buffalo milk is more popular than cow milk in India and Pakistan!
They boil this for a while and keep aerating it with their ladle for a frothy and strong cup of chai even without the spices. While catching an early morning train, I was amazed at how many people were lined up in front of a chai walla at 4 am right outside the Delhi train station!
I was equally amazed at how quickly my cousins and I were drawn towards a roadside chai walla after spending hours eating, shopping and hanging out at an arcade at an upscale mall in Delhi. Any meetup or trip is not complete without chai, and when travelling was a thing before the pandemic, this usually meant chai wallas to the rescue.
I have a friend in India who owns a chai café in India, and according to him, if there is no ginger, then it's not chai! This claim is troubling because it discredits all these roadside tea vendors who use no spices, but serve so many people throughout the day. It also discredits those who use other spices and don’t prefer ginger.
Also, let's not forget doodh-patti which translates to “milk tea” where chai is brewed directly in milk without any water. This is especially popular in North India and Pakistan. In fact, I have a Youtube video on 20 Types of Chai, and even this list is not exhaustive.
The point is you cannot pin down chai to any rules because it's a relatively new drink that became popular in India in the mid-1900s, and is still open to creativity and interpretation.
CTC black tea leaves over a cup of chai I made. The way the tea leaves are processed helps them make a strong infusion.
New Takes on Chai
When families move from South Asia to lay roots around the world, the culture of chai usually travels with them, and adapts to the new cultures, flavours and personality of the region.
That’s why when I got an opportunity to create a chai recipe from Matcha Alternatives blends, I jumped on board to experiment and go crazy. I mean a chai without the Assam CTC but with the South American bliss of Yerba Mate? Yes please!
After a few experiments and mishaps it was amazing: I was able to get the frothy chai texture, and the ginger cardamom flavours (my favourite) by just playing around with the Matcha Alternative blends. Does it taste like the everyday chai I make at home? Not exactly. But does that make it any less of a chai? Definitely not!
So after a few experiments, here is the chai recipe I was able to create from the chai blends from Matcha Alternatives. Enjoy!
The star of the show: Classically Cardamom Chai Spice Blend by MatchaAlternatives
Chai Yerba Mate Recipe
Chai Yerba Mate Ingredients
- Water – 1 cup
- Whole milk – ½ cup
- Classically Cardamom Ginger Chai Blend – 1 teaspoon
- Roasted Ginger Chai Yerba Mate – 2 teaspoons
- Milk – ¼ cup
Note: If you are vegan, you can try substituting regular milk with oat milk. Learn all about dairy substitutes here.
The base tea: Roasted Ginger Chai Yerba Mate by MatchaAlternatives, a mix of mate and black tea
Method & Steps
- Bring water to a boil in a saucepan
- Add in the Classically Cardamom Ginger Chai Blend and boil for 2 minutes
- Add in your milk and bring it to a boil (double boil works best)
- Turn off the stove and allow this concentrate to cool down for approximately 2-3 mins, to 170F
- Take 2 teaspoons of Roasted Ginger Chai Yerba Mate and give it a rinse with cool water (learned this through MA’s Yerba Lemon Vegan Cake blog!)
- Once the milk-chai concentrate has cooled down to about 170F, add in the yerba mate and cover the saucepan with a lid
- Let it all steep for 2-3 minutes
- Strain and serve
Steps 1 & 2: Boiling water and adding chai mix
Step 3: Boiling milk
Steps 5-7: Adding & steeping mate
Steps 8 & 9: Sieving
Variations on this Mate Chai
I would definitely urge you to try this recipe out but be creative and see what changes you’d like to make! I personally don’t add sugar to my chai and the Yerba Mate blend is already naturally sweet so I got away with it. (Note that it doesn’t have any added sugar or sweeteners though!)
However, you could try adding sugar if you’d like. I also enjoy these blends on their own without any milk and that actually tends to be my go-to method for these wonderful teas.
For those who are vegan, substituting regular milk with oat milk or other dairy alternatives could be an experiment you do. Also of course make sure to play around with how milky (or not) you like your chai to be!
There is a lot of creative freedom with chai, so just like me, I urge you to go crazy and try out different recipes.
A Note From Tanisha
The beautiful thing is that chai takes on the character of its surroundings and where it is. I was able to mimic a homemade authentic milky chai by using these creative blends of Matcha Alternatives because they have the strong chai flavours which do the job.
Don’t let any chai police tell you otherwise! Remember, there are no rules with chai - as long as you don’t call it chai tea, (chai chai) we are good. ;-)
Finally, I know too that @MatchaAlternatives would love to hear from you and see this recipe in action. Tag them to get featured :-D
Make your Chai Mate now:
Classically Cardamom Ginger Chai Blend
Ingredients: Cardamom, Ginger, Black + White pepper, Cinnamon, Clove, Nutmeg.
$7.50 for 1oz
Ingredients: Roasted mate, Black tea, Chopped and powdered ginger, Cardamom, Coriander, Cinnamon, Cloves, Black pepper, all natural flavors.
$6 for 1oz
Ingredients: Coarse-cut Thai dried ginger root
$8 for 1oz
This isn't in the recipe above, but can be added for extra kick!
Each thirty minute track is perfect for studying, meditation, or just ambient music for a relaxing afternoon.
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