The Life of Chai


I’ve spent 3.5 years bumming chai off of my Indian neighbors. Once I started drinking real chai regularly, the thirty different flavors of tea bag teas I’d kept in my cabinet hardly seemed adequate. I didn’t want to drink them anymore. I wanted real Indian tea.

After I got back from India, I decided I’d finally learn how to make it.

I bought this brand because I like the Taj Mahal. The real one.

First, I went to the Indian grocery store and bought myself some powdered tea– the same stuff I watched my cousin in Bangalore use when she made chai for me. Then I picked up a small strainer. I found some cardamom pods, and fresh ginger. I even picked up 2% milk instead of the fat free stuff we’ve used for years.

I boiled half milk, half water, with a teaspoon of tea for one cup. Then I added crushed cardamon pods and slices of ginger. After a few minutes, a froth formed at the top. The aroma was intoxicating. I held the strainer over the mug, then poured the tea over it. I stirred in some raw cane sugar.

It tasted amazing.

Pot half empty.

Last night we had a party at our home, with our Indian neighbors and my newly relocated Indian cousins. I made a huge pot of chai for everyone. It was a big hit.

*  *  *  *  *  *

I’ve always told myself that if and when the girls wanted to try meat, I’d let them. Well, the opportunity presented itself yesterday. After a fun afternoon at the Mythical Creatures exhibit at Fernbank Natural History Museum, we found ourselves at the most amazing Mediterranean restaurant. My husband ordered a lamb kabob, and the girls wanted to taste it.

First my 9-year old took a bite. She chewed a few seconds before exhibiting any sort of reaction, but after she swallowed, she declared that it was “delicious.” My 7-year old then wanted a bite. She agreed–the lamb was wonderful. “But it was a little lamb. A sweet, fluffly lamb,” I said. They were undeterred. “Yes, but it’s already dead. And it tastes great.”

I felt sick to my stomach.

I first became a vegetarian as almost a dare to myself. At the time, I lacked opinions about health, animals and the environment. But now? Now I’ve changed the way I feel about vegetarianism. Now it’s become moral imperative. It’s about doing what’s best for my body, respecting other living creatures the best I can, and understanding sustainability. Of course, one doesn’t have to be a vegetarian to be healthy, humane to animals, or to combat global warming. But it’s the path I chose for myself, and I realize now, the path I choose for my kids. They might not like it, but while they’re living under my roof, it’s the way they’re going to live.

Hope they enjoyed that lamb. It will be a long time before they eat it again.

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9 thoughts on “The Life of Chai

  1. oh, I didn’t realize your husband was not vegetarian (both K & I are, and part of our families). We still eat fish once in a while and I want to stop too. I have to cook fish for my students tomorrow and I’m dreading it. 😦 Last time I did it, I tried to eat it the next day and hated it. It was the first time I was actually imagining a beautiful fish swimming in the ocean and now it was there for me to it. yuck! The biggest motivation for us was always health and now that studies are really proving the connection with animal product consumption and many diseases (e.g. The China Study), we’re trying to avoid dairy products and eggs as well, but not completely yet. Your chai recipe sounds amazingly good, I will have to try that sometime! 😉

  2. Now I’m intrigued by the official way to make chai, as opposed to my pathetic little tea bags with chai flavorings. Glad it was a hit!
    My picky eater would like to be a vegetarian but since he does not, in fact, consume vegetables, this is not an option for us right now. But the meat we buy is from small farms, grass fed, etc. etc. etc. I am very lucky to have a local market that has done that work for me. I’m still sorry it had to die for me but I feel better that it had a good life, locally.

  3. Oh I love chai too, can’t leave the morning without a cuppa….my mom makes this amazing masala that she learnt from some neighbors. Every time she visits here or I go there I get a fresh batch.

    We are vegetarians for the most part by choice. In the long run, it is good for your health!

  4. i make a version of chai sort of like yours – though i usually add a couple of cloves and a piece of a cinnamon stick and a bit of honey. and i use loose tea, not powdered.

    how does your husband feel about the children eating/not eating meat? is that an issue?

  5. He rarely eats meat, and hopes someday to also be a vegetarian. He’s wanted the kids to be vegetarians from day one.

    Also, maybe I use loose tea? The granules are the size of sesame seeds so I thought it was smaller than loose tea.

  6. Unfortunately, I do not know how to make it! The ingredients are hard to find here so I never learnt how to make it! I will e-mail my mom and find out….

  7. Yes, the stuff that comes in that Taj Mahal box in your picture is loose tea (tea dust). Processed, but still called loose tea, I think. On the vegetarian thing, unfortunately I’m the isolated minority in my family, although it has to be said the only time the kids get to eat meat is when we are out.

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