Drop the Tea; it's already there in your Chai

Do I need to say anything? Really? But you know I will.

<pet peeve>
Here goes: there is no such thing as chai tea.

Chai is tea.

Chai tea is a classic example of redundancy. I've said it before, way back in 2003, but who read blogs then? Even less commented on them? The Libran in me does want to quickly clarify that Blogger didn't have a comments feature in 2003. It's true. But let's focus on this problem of redundancy instead, shall we?

Either call it tea or call it chai.

Please stop saying chai tea.

As for chai latte? Latte? Chai is almost always made with milk so that's another redundancy there.

And, if you use chai masala or a blend of spices to make, say, ice cream and there are no tea leaves in it? That's not chai ice cream. That's spiced ice cream or masala ice cream. Why? Because chai is tea, remember? If there's no tea in it, it can't be chai anything. The exception to this rule is chai masala.

Cardamom and cinnamon may mean dessert to some but that is not why chai is had after a sumptous meal. You can write poetry about it if you want but really, our meals don't have courses and dessert is usually served with the main meal. Chai is often served after a meal as a digestive aid or to shake off that lethargy to enable you and your heavy belly to make an attempt to leave. My point? Chai isn't dessert.

Chai does not have to have spices in it. Everyday chai is made with water, tea leaves, milk and sugar, the last of which is optional.

If it is possible to understand what bouillabaisse is, without redundant qualifiers before or after to explain that it is a Provençal fish stew, then it should be easy to deal with the word chai. It's much shorter. Or just say tea. Because that's what it is: tea.

So, please! Drop the tea because it's already there in your chai!
</pet peeve>

Everyday Tea

I grew up drinking tea that had been steeped. My father did not care for the extra tannins that are released when tea leaves are boiled. We also do not add a sweetener to our every day tea but there's always a bowl of organic sugar or agave nectar for anyone who may want it. I use Lipton Yellow Label Tea Loose Tea.
  1. Boil water in a kettle.
  2. Place strainer in teapot.
  3. Add 2 tsp tea leaves to the strainer.
  4. Pour hot water into teapot and allow to steep for 3-5 minutes.
  5. Pour into tea mug, add warm skim milk. Feel free to add a sweeter of your choice and enjoy.

Pudina chai

Pudina or mint chai is a refreshing change from everyday tea. All you need is 5-6 leaves of fresh mint.
pudina chai
  1. Heat 1 cup water in a saucepan.
  2. Coarsely tear 5-6 fresh mint leaves, add to water and bring to boil.
  3. Turn down the heat and add 1 tsp tea leaves.
  4. Simmer for a couple of minutes and then add 1/8 cup skim milk. If using, add sugar or sweetener of your choice.
  5. Turn up the heat until hot but do not boil.
  6. Strain into a tea mug. Great with Parle G biscuits.

Ginger chai

There is nothing quite like ginger chai on a cool day, to soothe those allergies and provide temporary relief for that nagging sniffle.
ginger tea
  1. Heat 1 cup water in a saucepan.
  2. Crush two slices of ginger, add to water and bring to boil.
  3. Turn down the heat and add 1 tsp tea leaves.
  4. Simmer for a couple of minutes and then add 1/8 cup skim milk. If using, add sugar or sweetener of your choice.
  5. Turn up the heat until hot but do not boil.
  6. Strain into a tea mug. Great by itself, had sitting next to a window, watching the rain come down.

Ginger mint tea is yet another variation that hits the spot. Use 5-6 mint leaves and 2 slices of crushed ginger for 1 cup of tea. The flavors complement each other beautifully.

Masala chai

Chai masala and masala chai? That's got to be confusing! Chai masala is the blend of spices added to tea to make masala chai. Get it?
chai masala
My own blend
  1. Heat 1 cup water in a saucepan.
  2. Lightly bruise 2 green cardamoms, 1 clove, slender piece of cinnamon, 1/4 tsp of fennel seeds and 4-5 black peppercorns using a mortar-pestle. Add to water.
  3. Crush two slices of ginger, add to water and bring to boil.
  4. Turn down the heat and add 1 tsp tea leaves.
  5. Simmer for a couple of minutes and then add 1/8 cup skim milk. If using, add sugar or sweetener of your choice.
  6. Turn up the heat until hot but do not boil.
  7. Strain into a tea mug.
masala chai
It really is masala chai!

This is a mildly spiced but pleasant tea. It is spicy but not overpowering. It soothes and excites, a perfect blend! The beauty of masala chai is that you can create your own blend, one that appeals to your palate. Add more peppercorns for an extra zing. Add more fennel seeds for a more licorice-like flavor. Add more cinnamon for that distinctive sweet overtone. But always let cardamom take center-stage.

When it comes to store-bought brands, I have a preference for Badshah Kamal Tea Masala but I use less than the recommended amount stated in the directions. I also add fresh ginger and a few pods of green cardamom.

A lot of tea has been guzzled this past week - it has been a very stressful period. There were three fires, one of which was literally in my backyard, the most destructive wildfire in the history of Colorado. On Twitter, it is called #boulderfire but its official name is the Emerson Gulch Fire. It has claimed about 170 homes but luckily there were no fatalities.

boulder fire
We saw it when the winds started whipping up a little past 11 am on Labor Day. The strange fast moving cloud quickly turned into an ominous dark cloud. It could have been just over the hill but the lack of wailing sirens indicated that it was probably further away in the foothills. My Twitter feed was soon filled with details of the fire being fanned by high winds. Ironically, the high fire danger that had been in place over the weekend had been lifted. I wondered if, like last January, it was because of an electric pole that had toppled over due to the high winds. But there were unconfirmed reports of a truck running into a propane tank leading to a BLEVE.

We decided to go into 'evacuation mode' and quickly gathered things important to us, just in case we needed to leave. One backpack with passports and important documents, one medicine bag, one camera bag, two laptops, one bag with a change of clothes and two external HDDs. And if push came to shove, then honestly and truly, none of that mattered more than getting out safely. But we were safe as was our home. The fire was not moving in our direction nor was there a likelihood of it reaching us. Unlike those who lost their homes and all their belongings. A horrific tragedy.

None of us were in the mood for our annual Labor Day picnic and the increasingly poor air quality made it even less enticing. But we went anyway and when the winds died down, we saw the recon plane show up, followed by three slurry bombers.
boulder fire from louisville
Backdrop for our picnic
We watched hopelessly as the evacuation area grew, as thousands were forced to grab whatever possessions they could and leave their homes. The evacuation area came within 2 miles of Jen's mountain home. I got my guest bedroom ready just in case, hoping and praying that it wouldn't need to be used.

smoke in the air
Particulate nature

Things swung from good to bad with most of western city of Boulder on evacuation alert Thursday night because of high winds. And, boy, were they scary winds. Gusts of over 64mph were clocked in the fire zone but luckily they died down by 1 am and only a few small fires were rekindled. A state emergency was declared and over 550 firefighters from around the country made our summer 'beach,' the Boulder Reservoir, their base. Firefighters rock!

Day 3 of Boulder Fire
From Davidson Mesa

It is now Day 7 of the Boulder Fire and we're looking at 100% containment by Monday. People are being allowed back into their homes to pick up their belongings. The situation is improving.

slurry bomber
Go, Slurry Bomber! Go!

There are far better pictures than mine on the Flickr blog.

There were two more fires around the country this past week. The deadly San Bruno fire, triggered by an explosion from a gas leak, and the Detroit fires, due to downed power lines.

Yesterday was Ganesh Chaturthi, the day on which I like to make chavde. I didn't make any. Instead, I cooked dinner for my neighbors who adopted a beautiful baby boy last month and also sent some food over to another neighbor who has a broken ankle. Far more rewarding than making chavde and eating them ourselves!

I also made chai. Lots of it.

Who takes tea to a tea party? Not me.


sra said...

Sorry to hear about the fires, but glad you're safe.

Never heard of chai tea, have heard enough of naan bread. Have often wondered if pizza pie is redundant, got to go look it up at least now.

Must say I liked the third photo where the slice of cake on the book looks like it's an actual piece standing there!

maybelles mom said...

I have been thinking of you pretty regularly when I hear about the fires. Glad you are safe, and I hope that the tea kept you calm (if alert.)

Xiaolu said...

Sorry about the fires, but the chai looks lovely. My best friend is Indian and that used to piss her off too.

Finla said...

I did saw in your FB page there was fire but didn't know it was so close to your home. Happy to hear your home and you all are safe.
We were never allowed to drink tea/coffee when we were at home Mom always told not good for you kids.
I stated getting the habbit of drinking Tea/coffee after getting married.
Now I ave reduced my coffee drinking, but not tea. And black no milk or sugar.

GB said...

Wow, glad you were unharmed and glad to know there were no fatalities.

Loved your chai lineup. Some of the best chai I've had was while I was a student---university dhabas rock! (I never "got" chai tea/chai latte either!! Its such a turn off that I've never really tasted the concoction!)

Soma said...

Happy you are safe.

Love the picture of the ray of light thru the door.

totally not food, but chai tea makes me think of "piche back karo" :-D

I have never had mint tea this way, but then again I do not like any tea other than the teapot kind of pure Darjeeling tea. While Arjun loves drinking masala chai, strong and with lot of stuffs in them. love your mugs and teapots!

marianne said...

I love the many recipes, they all look delicious! Love this post :)

And that's an amazing shot of the fire from your picnic grounds....

Chris + Shalan G said...

The fires and the aftermath were indeed a tragedy. We are so happy that you, and your friends were safe.

Lovely and articulate rant about what I am sure most Indians either find amusing or irritating - Chai Tea. Argh! One never orders café latte with milk (at least I hope not).

Speaking of chais, have you tried chai with holy basil, adrak and peppercorns? Mum makes that during monsoon and winter months. Truly divine.

Take care and be safe~

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about the fires- glad you and your family are ok.

The Chai tea nomenclature is one of my 'peeves' too..and naan bread..lol.


Indian Food Rocks said...

There are three new fires today, one of which we can see from Louisville.

Sra, like everything else, maybe this trend will also make it to India? Don't get me started on naan bread! Who says tortilla flatbread? Sometimes I think the Indian restaurants are to blame for naan bread.

Maybelle's Mom, thanks! Unfortunately, there are three new fires today. All much farther away but it's still very distressing. We need rain. :-(

Happy, thanks! I drink a lot more tea than coffee, too!

GB, thanks! "Bhakti Chai" is a local Boulder company. Their bottled chais seem to be a hit but I still prefer my homemade tea!

Soma, Medha took that pic cos she couldn't believe her eyes! And "piche back karo" is hilarious!

Marianne, can you see the plumes from the Loveland fire? It's so sad.

Galtenbergs, thanks! Your Mom's chai sounds divine! In the monsoons, we would buy bunches of "gavti chaha" (lemongrass) from the streetside vendors and rush home to warm ourselves after a nasty commute.

PPP, thanks! I am in good company then!

Desisoccermom said...

Sorry about the off and on again fires. My respect for fire fighters has increasing after coming to this country. They do ROCK!

As to the chai tea, yeah, I too wince everytime I hear it. And naan brea! Leave it to Sra to point that out.

I have to say, as much as I love tea, I like mine "kadak" which means no seeping the tea leaves and it has to have ginger and milk and sugar. The masala chai I too love, though I have never made the masala at home.

My mom uses cardamom in summers and ginger in winter. And yes, thank you for mentioning gavati chaha. I love it on rainy days too. :)

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

Sa to hear about the fires. I cannot even begin to imagine what it feels like to lose your home in something like this. :(

I was happy to see this because chai tea and naan bread are two of my peeves too.

Shilpa said...

Beautiful post Manisha. I love your pet peeve. I never understood why they call it Chai Tea Latte (and I hate the taste of it).
I have been thinking about writing a post about chai and never got to it so far :(. I am going to try adding fennel seeds and black pepper, never tried that.

AA_Mom said...

Those fires do sound scary, not to mention the health issues it might be causing some even from afar.

The tea party host is missing on this board ;-)

Somebody could read your hand in the picture where you are holding the masalas, it is that clear and sharp.

Not Hannah said...

Running off to make chai. NOT chai tea. I'm pretty sure I'll now pitch a fit if anybody asks me for chai tea again. :)

Glad you are safe...

Anita said...

I remember seeing these 'things' on the menu in the US...I am with you!

Are you planning to be the last one in at the party? I for one wouldn't complain if you brought pots of your teas to the party! But, if you insist, I will offer all the teas that are needed at the party - armed with all your recipes!

I usually steep my tea but love the chai my sister makes from the same tea leaves; somehow, mine doesn't come out as good.
A whole month of unstoppable rain has meant that I have made quite a few cups of adrak chai. Holy basil is another good addition. A friend of mine used to pluck a few ajwain leaves from her pots and add it to the cup before pouring tea - another interesting flavour.
This weekend I had a good adrak chai on top of Guru Shikhar, the highest point between the Nilgiris and the Himalayas!

SS blogs here said...

Atleast there is no java-chip-chai-machiato...

.. yet! :)

Nice blog, btw!

Kulsum said...

Sorry to hear about the fires really glad you are safe though.

Now I couldn't agree more on this whole Chai tea thing. I thought may be its just me, now hearing it from you makes me feel better!

Love your blog. You are so talented.

Manasi said...

Glad u all are safe.
My fav way to enjoy 'chaha' is with ginger and 'gavati chaha' :)

Miri said...

It's the same reason why we have to speak English "correctly" and pronounce names "right", while I am addressed in emails with a random shortening of my full name which makes it a Man's name for heaven's sake!
This inspite of the fact that my signature has my full name - so one just has to copy paste PLUS I sign each mail with my short name which has four letters - how hard can it be?

Locely pics and a great tutorial on chai :) I don't drink tea but have been surrounded by finicky tea drinkers - grew up with parents and now married to one! And I can tell you this - there is hardly any tea stall in India now where you get plain chai - its always masala chai, which Hubby cant stand. We figured that this is probably because it helps mask the bitterness of constantly boiling the tea.

Glad your area stayed safe - its scary to imagine when our life can actually come down to a few bags - makes you wonder what all the other trappings are about!

Unknown said...

Couldn't agree more about the "chai tea" pet peeve.

Any chance of some gyaan about Kashmiri kehva?

Love the blog!

Unknown said...

Lovely instructional post on the various tea and spice blends.

Anonymous said...

Very informative! I love chai and will be correct from now on ;)

Pragati @ Get Fresh with Food said...

Love the post!!! I have been hearing Chai tea for so long that I am use to it by now. But, it's important to correct it. Thanks

Namitha said...

hahaha, that's so right ! Don't know where I picked up this usage, maybe from FB or something. But it was recently :D

notyet100 said...

I am inspired to prepare some masala chai now,..:)