Chai, by which is usually meant spiced 'masala' chai, is one of the few real drink 'essentials' for survival throughout the world. The best chai may be found beside almost any remote road in the Indian subcontinent, whereas smart Indian hotels tend to provide at best a pale, sanitised, civilised variation.
The following recipe is the result of many visits to India and ongoing experiments on scores of neophyte1 chai-addicts. It is blissful to drink in the cold winters of the northern hemisphere, yet it is also deliciously and miraculously refreshing on a swelteringly hot roadside in India, or anywhere of similar temperature.
How to Make the Best Chai
Grind together five measures of green/white cardamoms, two measures of black pepper, one measure of cloves, and half a measure of cinnamon.
Add one dessertspoon of this spice mix to enough water, in a saucepan, for a pot of tea for two.
Add half that amount of milk, plus two (or more) table/soup spoons of sugar, and a lump of grated fresh root ginger about the size of your thumb.
Add the tea, preferably black Indian tea, according to the strength you require (two, three, or four teaspoons/teabags).
Bring the lot to the boil and simmer till well stewed.
Strain and pour into a suitable vessel for serving.
Ideally chai is drunk from small unglazed earthenware cups. These are called 'beloveds' in India because they are used once, and touch only your lips.