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In Praise Of...


by Lucy Laucht

The very first time I arrived in India my taxi driver took me straight from Delhi airport to a tea shop. At that little roadside stand, I stood in the orange dawn and learned a steaming hot masala chai wipes away the exhaustion fourteen hours of air travel wreaks on the body. My visit to India was of the work rather than spiritual variety but nevertheless, I was pulled along by the tide of energy that flows through the subcontinent. I didn’t know it at the time, but that journey would mark the beginning of a profound two year period of love and loss, in which chai would play a small but steady part.


I had chai every morning during that first trip. I loved everything about it: the taste, the ceremony, the morning ritual. The way the steam unfurls in the air of a newly minted day, the way it warms your bones in the cold Indian morning. The aroma; ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, peppercorn. The audible rush of the gas stove, the patter of stainless steel pans, the delicate clink of chai glasses. The way the streets of India come alive in all their vital chaos and in the middle of it all is the chai shop. Men reading the morning papers, women trading stories.


A chai wallah in Jaipur shared his recipe with me and once back in rainy old England I attempted to recreate it, landing on the right quantities after several failed attempts. And so chai became my morning rite, a mooring through the turbulent times of losing a father and a relationship. There’s something infinitely reassuring about watching the sunrise with a cup of warm chai in hand.


Two years later I returned to India once more, traveling from Rajasthan in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south where along the way I discovered the nuances of chai; bhar style, where the drink is taken from small unglazed ceramic cups, giving it a rich and earthy flavour, to the dramatic long pour manner of Tamil Nadu, which allows the boiling brew to cool slightly before hitting the glass. In northern Rajasthan I spent a few days in the Thar desert, drinking chai (obviously) and reflecting. This trip seemed a bookend for the past two years and the mark of a new beginning.


An old man in a village in the south told me masala chai is medicinal, that it cures all. Take it every morning and you’ll live a long and happy life. I can vouch it does wonders for jet lag, delicate Western constitutions, and perhaps especially, for the soul.


Chai Masala Mix:

20g ground peppercorn (I like my chai peppery, so perhaps dial down on the quantity for your first batch!) 

20g ground turmeric 

25g ground ginger 

10g ground cinnamon 

10g ground cardamom pods

1g ground cloves

1g nutmeg 

Whole milk 

Tea (I use loose leaf or Clipper as their bags are plastic free0 

1/2 teaspoon honey to sweeten 


Heat the milk and tea in a saucepan. Once the milk starts to warm, add a teaspoon of the masala chai mix and stir.  Keep the pan on the flame until the milk starts to simmer & bubble. Add honey to sweeten. Et voilà. 

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