Indian Tea Recipes
Indian tea recipe collection. chai recipes. More than being a mere beverage, tea is a comfort drink to many. It has an instant pick-me-up effect. Whether one is tired, fed up or unwell, the most preferred reaction is to take a tea-break! Since our childhood days, we have all witnessed the chai-wallahs, joyfully peddling tea from insulated drums affixed on the rears of cycles. At beaches, parks, markets and in office areas, his ware is eagerly consumed by tea lovers, even though it is a simple milk tea sometimes with a touch of ginger or cardamom – nothing exotic, but it offers simple homely comfort to the drinker.
Evolving taste for tea
Fresh Mint and Lemon Tea
Today, the taste for tea has evolved and we find the chai-wallahs competing with dispensing machines (nothing more than a runner-up in the race!) and tea shops that sell dozens of varieties of green, black and chaai teas reinforced with spices and herbs. With people developing a taste for black and green teas, it has become common for offices to have tea counters with different varieties of tea bags, slices of lemon, pots of honey and sometimes spice powders too.
People are becoming more knowledgeable about the different types of tea, and are beginning to try tea from different regions, of different stages of fermentation and so on. You have varieties like Oolong, which were not much-known a decade back, finding a prominent place in store shelves. Over their cup of tea, nowadays many people are discussing tea itself rather than topics of national importance!
Indeed, tea is a magical and versatile beverage. Every person has their favourite brew – black, milky, hot, cold, plain, masaledar, and so on, and depending on how it is made, tea can not only wake you up but also soothe you and warm your soul when you feel down in the dumps! And of course, there is always ‘chai pe charcha’ with friends and colleagues, which is obviously incomplete without the perfect cuppa!
All about Indian teas
In Indian supermarkets, we commonly come across green teas and black teas. Green tea is unfermented tea while black tea is fully-fermented. In between these two, there is a semi-fermented tea called Oolong tea, which is also readily available in stores these days. Oolong is gaining popularity because of its distinct flavour and digestive benefits.
A word about Orange Pekoe
Amongst black teas, Orange Pekoe is the highest grade, while dust is the lowest quality. Leaf tea is graded between these two. A blend of leaf and dust is ideal for making chaai. Orange Pekoe tea, which is best had without milk, is the highest quality of black tea, picked with the balls of the fingertips, untouched by fingernails or cutting tools. This keeps the bud intact. The best quality of Orange Pekoe has only the tea bud, while the rest is graded depending on the number of leaves that were plucked with the bud.
Ever wondered what is CTC?
Masala Chai Or Masala Tea
You will also often come across the term CTC when you are shopping for teas. CTC, which stands for Crush-Tear-Curl is a method of processing tea to make it into uniformly-sized granules. Here, the tea is passed through a series of cylindrical rollers with sharp teeth that crush, tear and curl the tea into small and hard pellets or granules. Tea of different grades, from different plantations, can all be dumped into the roller to make a good, strong CTC tea. While CTC is ideal for making traditional Indian milk tea or chaai, it is not for the tea connoisseur who likes to compare and relish teas from different plantations, because the CTC process tends to homogenize the flavour of the teas. CTC or mamri tea from Assam and Nilgiris are quite popular.
Debatable definitions of white tea
We also see white teas in the market these days. Although there is no fixed definition or standard for white teas, the generally accepted norm is that it is made from tender or young tea buds and is minimally processed. The buds are harvested at a stage when the plant is still immature – the bud is still covered with a white fibrous material and the leaves are yet to unfurl fully. At this stage, the buds are carefully plucked, minimally processed and packed. White tea is supposed to be burgeoning with Antioxidants, and is touted to have Heart-friendly, skin-friendly and Cancer-fighting effects.
How to make the perfect cup of tea
If you are going to have a cup of black or green tea without milk, remember that the tea should not be boiled in water. Bring the water to a boil and take it off the stove. Let it cool for just a few seconds before adding the tea leaves and natural flavourers. Cover, and let it infuse for a few minutes. Then strain and enjoy hot. You can spruce it up with a little sugar, a dash of honey or a squeeze of lemon. If you look into the cup, your black or green tea should be clear, not muddy.
Elaichi Tea, Indian Cardamom Tea, Elaichi Chaa
India’s favourite drink though is the comforting chaai, made with milk. Generally, the water, milk and tea leaves are boiled together and simmered for a minute or two. This mixture is then allowed to brew off the stove for a few more minutes and then filtered to make a deliciously milky beverage. You can sweeten your tea with cane sugar, palm sugar or jaggery, or just have it without sugar. The milky chaai is usually perked up with spices to make all-time favourites like the soothing Cardamom Chaai or peppy Masala Chaai. You can make your Chaai Masala at home for a more vibrant flavour than store-bought ones. Throw in some herbs like lemongrass and mint to add a bright and cheery note to your chaai.
When down in the dumps, go for a tisane
When you are feeling low, go for a tisane rather than a caffeinated drink. Tisanes are basically herbal teas, mostly made without any tea in it! Put the kettle on, and once the water boils, throw in some herbs and spices and let them infuse for a few minutes. Strain and enjoy your delicious herbal tea! It’s as easy as that. Although readymade tisanes are available as tea-bags, none can match the flavour of a freshly-brewed cuppa. For digestion, immunity or weight-loss – you can make a tisane to aid in any healthful goal. Known as kashayam, kadha, kashaya or kwath, herbal teas are part and parcel of Indian culture!
A tisane need not always be a fiery concoction that makes you sweat. You can also have very pleasant tisanes made of hibiscus or rose petals with a touch of honey and a dash of cinnamon.
Ginger Cinnamon Tea
A peppy combo of Fresh Mint and Lemon is sure to wake up your senses, while a cup of Ginger Cinnamon tea will help relieve cold or hyperacidity. A pleasant Fennel Tea is just right to relieve you of constipation, while a Honey Ginger Tea is a mouth-watering home remedy for cough and cold. Tulsi-based herbal teas are also very popular these days.
Regional and seasonal favourite teas
Mangalorean Tea, Kasai, Kadha
There are also several regional favourites like Mumbai’s Cutting Chaai, Mangalorean Tea (Kasai or Kadha), Gujarati Ukado, and the spicy South Indian Jaggery Tea. International favourites include the Turkish Pomegranate Tea, Lebanese Tea, the Fruity Chinese Tea and more.
You can also pick your cuppa depending on the season. Go for warm gingery tones in the winter, while picking something cooling like the Sandalwood Tea in the hot summer months.
If your masala dabba is well stocked with fresh spices, you can mix-and-match them to make an endless variety of teas. You can also experiment with dynamic, fresh ingredients like rose, mint, hibiscus, basil, fruits and so on, to make a wide range of revitalizing and flavourful teas. Unleash your imagination to make each day’s tea-time different from the rest. And do not forget the tea-time snacks!
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