Traditionally, the spices and

What is in Chai tea?

width=Regardless what Starbucks, Oprah and even the trendy independent coffee shop around the corner may call it, never say "chai tea." That is the number one rule for drinking masala chai — a drink which represents a way of life in India. Shiv Puri, co-owner of New York City's Bombay Sandwich Co., says that over a third of his customers refer to the drink as "chai tea." But they shouldn't. Chai tea simply translates to "tea tea." It's like referring to kabocha as kabocha squash, or shortbread as shortbread cookies.

What most people consider "chai tea" is better known as masala chai ("masala" means spices). And while there is no standard recipe or preparation method for the drink, it typically involves brewing a strong loose black tea (usually from the tea growing Indian state of Assam) with warming spices like cardamom, ginger, and nutmeg. Other variations can include ingredients like cinnamon, saffron, rose, fennel, peppercorn, clove, and star anise. Notably, both the Chai Cart in San Francisco and popular cafe Dishoom in London say that they use black pepper in their tea as well.

Photo: Chai Wallahs of India/Facebook

Traditionally, the spices and loose tea are placed in a pot with a mixture of milk and water, which is brought to a full boil so that the flavors can meld. Puri emphasizes that "a proper cup of chai should have been boiled during the cooking process." The tea is then taken off the heat, strained, and the option of adding sugar comes into play. At Dishoom, the masala chai is made with half water and half milk, a spokesperson reveals.

However, there are a number of regional chai variations. Photojournalist Resham Gellatly and journalist Zack Marks spent months traveling and documenting the stories of India's numerous chai wallahs, or those who run the tea stands that are ubiquitous throughout the country and practically woven into the fabric of daily life. These low-tech stands — which usually feature a burner, a large pot, some cups, and a ladle — are where chai wallahs work their magic. With a minimal amount of equipment, they make hundreds, if not thousands of cups per day, majestically pouring boiling hot tea from impressive heights into small cups.

During their travels, the duo encountered chai wallahs making the drink with buffalo milk in Kolkata, but in a town in the Northern state of Rajasthan, the tea was made with camel's milk. In the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Gellatly and Marks found a chai wallah who served a bright pink tea that incorporated salt. (The tea got its color from the baking soda used to make the drink.) Others finish masala tea with a dollop of butter. And in the city of New Delhi, chai is often served topped with malai, or a thick cooked cream.

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Source: www.eater.com
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