A day without tea for me is not a good day. I begin and end my day with a cup of steaming hot golden goodness. Cups of tea have started my daily rituals in the kitchen and have always served me as the perfect pick me up, anytime of the day. A great cup of this elixir can fix almost anything that ails you. Haiti is not a country where the tea tradition exists. As such, it is not very easy to find good tea in the supermarket. Believe me when I say that all teas are not created equally as I consider myself a connoisseur of tea now. I enjoy my jolt of caffeine during the day, and though coffee is readily available here, I am not a coffee drinker. Now if I go out of town for the weekend in Haiti, I carry my own electric kettle and stash of tea when I go to places where I know that tea will not be available. I'm that much of a fanatic!
My pantry is filled with tins of teas of every possible type and origin. Often friends and family bring me them as gifts as they know how much I enjoy tea. I have black and green teas, herbal and medicinal teas as well as an array of dried herbs and flowers from my garden for tisanes; I do not discriminate. I enjoy tea in all of its forms; although I do have preferences. For mornings, I need something robust, so it's always English breakfast, Irish tea, Assam or something in that realm. The best tea blends are Indian and English. I like the ease of tea bags, but I do enjoy the time old tradition of loose tea. I especially like this for afternoon tea, when I use my Wedgwood China tea set and all of the apparel that is use for a proper tea service.
Green teas are great to sip all through the day. They are wonderful as digestive aids and are just great sources of antioxidants. What a blessing it was when tea was first discovered in China a few millennium ago. The Chinese have always recognized the value of sipping hot beverages and attribute this to longevity and good health. Legend has it that the Emperor was on his terrace sipping a cup of hot water, when the wind blew a few leave from a nearby shrub into his cup. The leaves infused into the water and when the Emperor sipped it, he was pleasantly surprised by the flavor which the leaves had imparted to the water. And so began the cultivation of tea which has now traversed the globe and created followers around the world.
Chai is the word for tea in many languages. The Indian Chai is type of milky sweet tea flavored with a blend of spices. It is served all over India and is revered and loved by millions. Chaiwalas expertly prepare and serve chai from steaming vats all day long. These side walk enterprises are humble and an integral part of the fabric of this ancient culture. The addition of warm spices such as cardamom, cloves and ginger add the flavor. The blend of spices or masala can vary from person to person. I learned how to make Chai some years ago. Drinking it gives me such a warm and homey feeling of well being. It takes a little more time, but believe me, it is time well spent and worth the little extra prep. I have my own blend which I like to use and the recipe is below.
Here's a little bit of heaven in a cup to savor. Enjoy!!
This makes a large cup of tea
1 heaping teaspoon of good black tea; Assam is my preference
1/4 cinnamon stick
1 slice fresh ginger
1 cardamom pod, crushed
3 whole black peppercorns
2 whole cloves
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk or half and half
Sugar to your taste
Crush spices and place in a pot with water and milk.
Add sliced ginger and tea.
Heat all of the ingredients until water comes to a boil and lower the heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes more.
Strain the tea into a large cup or teapot. Sweeten as you like.
Now sit back and enjoy the timeless pleasure of a great cup of chai.