If you have ever travelled in the Indian train network that you will undoubtedly have come across masala chai. Sold in teeny little plastic cups, it is deftly served from a stainless steel dispenser by a chai wallah, as the train rickety racks along the tracks. I wouldn’t fancy my chances serving tea that way. Strong freeze dried tea mix with rich whole milk it has a strong fragrant flavour which comes from cardamom and cinnamon.
It’s not a drink for the faint hearted as it is pretty much always sold sweetened, especially on the train where it’s sold ready to drink (unless you have upgraded to first class), but it is a restorative drink that only associate with this country.
Where I am staying with my friend and teacher, Amita, I am lucky to get this drink whenever I desire and often have it brought to my room to ease my way into the morning. This is quite a different beast though as it comes served in an beautifully crafted family heirloom of a silver teapot with the most perfect spout and pour, so that not a drop of this gets lost on the tray.
Pounded fresh in the morning in a pestle and mortar, the spices are much more subtle than my beloved train tea. But in the same way that I can happily chug through a pot of my favourite Darjeeling loose leaf, I am quite partial to a good strong cup of builder’s tea and slice of cake, its a completely different drink.
Conscious that this calorie rich drink will go straight to my hips, I am only taking a pinch of sugar, keen to wean myself of the sweet stuff whilst I am away from home (it is my biggest weakness), its w lovely way to start my day.
But do you even like masala chai...? Have you tried to recreate it at home? Are these foreign foods only exciting because of the moment you are in?