Chai for me is to be enjoyed on its own. Simple. No food required. I often long for a ‘dhaba’ (roadside restaurant) style desi (with reference to all things South Asian) chai. The last time I enjoyed the authenticity of sitting by a roadside kiosk at dusk, sipping a hot, sweet masala chai, was during one of my rare visits to Bangladesh – a place where I spent a good part of my childhood. Sadly, most restaurants in London will not serve a tea without a meal…unlike our coffee shops. So whilst my day always starts with a desi cardamom chai, when out and about, like a bee to drawn to nectar, I find myself in my favourite coffee shop ordering a “Grande Soya Chai Tea Latte, extra chai, no water” – a bit of a mouthful but certainly worth the effort. Worth noting: The soya lends a creamy sweetness which I find lacking in the dairy version. However, during a recent visit to a well known curry house, I was blown away by the luscious Kashmiri Chai served, on request, BEFORE my meal. Now let me tell you a little about this beverage. Kashmiri Chai, otherwise know as Sheer Chai or Pink Tea is a traditional Kashmiri drink brewed from special tea leaves and served with cardamom, pistachios and almonds served as a warming beverage during the cold winter months in India and Pakistan; also enjoyed during festivities and celebrations. It’s characteristic pink colour is achieved by adding a pinch of baking soda. Not wanting to go out for a full blown meal, but longing to indulge in this very superior version of chai, I took to the stove with a zealous determination to recreate the magic of Kashmir in my South West London home kitchen, albeit a lower fat rendition.
- 2 tbl kashmiri or green tea leaves
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup half fat milk
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- 1/3 cup half fat evaporated milk (opional)
- 10-12 cardamon pods, split and used whole or seeds crushed
- 2 tbsp sugar
- pinch of ground pistachios (optional)
- pinch of ground almonds (optional)
How to brew
- Bring 2 cup of water to boil.
- Add the tea leaves and bring to boil.
- Cover and simmer for 60-90 minutes until the liquid turns a reddish colour.
- Add the baking soda and shake, then bring back to boil.
- Add the another cup of water (preferably chilled), pouring it in from a height.
- Shift the liquid between the pan and another pan or jug, by pouring the liquid from a height from one to the other – this process enhances the flavour and pink colour.
- Return to boil.
- Strain the liquid and return to the pan.
- Bring back to boil and add the milk and sugar.
- Gently bring to boil and simmer for 5 mins.
- Pour in the evaporated milk (if using) and again bring to boil and simmer for 1-2 mins.
- Pour into your favourite chai mugs and top with crushed nuts if desired.