Chai is different than the tea. It is a readymade mix of tea concoction and milk along with various condiments, and is ready to drink.
My friend Rocky Mohan doesn’t want to drink Chai because the standards are non-uniform and the taste could differ from one place to another. I agree. The best chai one will ever get to drink will be at home, because the boiling temperature, number of boils, tea leaves, quantity of milk, sugar and spices are mostly done as per ones liking which becomes difficult to quantify at a restaurant.
On my recent visit to Darjeeling, a major tea destination, I had chai from a small tea stall and it was just awesome. I asked for the recipe from the stall owner, who has a simple recipe – Bring full cream milk and little water to boil, add 1 Tsp Darjeeling tea sugar, a little CTC leaves for colour and cover again to boil. And it’s ready to drink.
I also pour the ready tea in a teapot or jug to mix a little air before pouring it in the cup, and it does enhance the taste.
We checked out the best ways of making chai and posed this question to our many members on our facebook group. Here are few of the suggestions and you may keep trying each one till you find the one which make you say…wah chai!
Rhea Mitra-Dalal: My brew is a teaspoon and a half of Lopchu Flowery Orange Pekoe leaves steeped for 3 mins in a teapot. Add a tsp of sugar and a quarter teaspoon of condensed milk in a bone china teacup.
Farah Pasha: 30% Darjeeling tea leaves +70% Assam tea leaves. In a warm teapot add 2 tea spoons of tea leaves add boiling water and let it sit for a few minutes, you have the perfect cup of tea.
Mridu Gupta: For tea leaves and brands – i believe its personal taste, you’ll have to try plenty before one finds that suits the palate best. Personally, I find the spring harvest leaves to have the freshest and truest taste. To make the perfect cuppa – the MOST important thing is not to boil the water to bubbling. Just a little short of 100 degrees with enough tea leaves (1 and a half tea spoon) to give you colour & flavour in 3mnts (One can usually re-use these in another pot of tea if you don’t over use or steep it longer the second time), sugar to taste, no milk. (Dairy reduces flavour and benefits of tea)
Sandipa Nitin Tombat: I belong to the Club of “SNOBBISH TEA DRINKERS”, the term used by Vir Sanghvi to describe people like us, who don’t make a kheer of their tea. I use Lipton Green Label. Boil water and then turn off the gas, put the tea leaves and let it brew for 4/5 minutes. Then strain it and add milk and sugar as per your taste. This is the perfect cup of tea for me.
Shefali Nigam Mansingh: I like the green tea without milk and sugar. Just a twist of lemon.
Shwetambri Singh: We do enjoy Lemon Tea with bit of Kala Namak (Black salt) & Black Pepper and trust me every sip is divine
Aalok Wadhwa: My favourite is Tata Tea Gold. In a small chai wala patila I put in one cup water, two tablespoons milk and half a teaspoon sugar. Let it come to a boil, and put in a teaspoon of tea leaves. Shut it, cover it and have it a minute later.
Sandhya Nag: Try adding lemon grass to the normal tea. It gives amazing flavour.
Bindu Pandit: In India, we used to combine Yellow Label and Green Label together; now for many years converted to tea bags:1 bag each of Earl Grey and Yellow Label which I found in the Indian store. The big controversy here is milk first or later: ask any of us, milk ALWAYS later; and has to be sweet! I also love I love cardamom flavored Rainbow tea available in the Middle East
Prabal Kirtika: My first preference is 1/1/2tsp Brookbond’s natural care tea with 2 tbsp milk and without sugar and sometimes TTG with a pinch of Twinings to make it more strong and flavourful
Leon Samson & Bhaskar Sharma: Waghbakri tea is the best in my opinion
Farah Mistry: My two favorites are Brooke Bond Red Label and Kanan Devan. What I do is if I want to make some for just myself, I boil a cup of water with 1 tsp. loose tea with sugar. Once it comes to a simmer, I add saffron or crushed cardamom. Then add evaporated milk. Bring it to a boil, strain and serve. If I find lemon grass leaves then I add that sometimes.
Madhulika Srivastava: There’s this wonderful store called Dewan’s tucked away in Khanna Market near Jorbagh in Delhi which keeps loose tea and coffee. You can ask them to make your preferred blends. I buy their champagne labeled Darjeeling tea. All it takes is 1 tsp of tea leaves to cups water. Once brewed, have it with 1 tsp of milk and sugar to taste. Amazing flavour
Sumeet Grover: A mixture of green label n red label.
Nirupma Chauhan Raghav: During winters i always have ginger tea. Half milk- half water with brook bond red label or Taj but during summers i prefer to have lipton yellow label with lipton green label in three pot style…amazing flavour
Deblina Dhar Banerjee: Any Darjeeling tea and Brooke bond mix 2:1 or 1:1 proportion and then make tea. Milk and sugar to taste
Savithri Swaminathan: I use Tata tea gold but with some cardamom peels added. While boiling the water, add some ginger. So the final tea has a depth due to the ginger and a mild smell of cardamom… Ah heavenly!
Shefali Saggar: A perfect cup of tea is the one which is brewed preferably with Darjeeling Tea leaves (Champagne of Teas). You could try Golden Orange Pekoe, very flavorful. Watch put for duplicates. One shop to procure it from in Delhi is Mittal Tea House in Lodhi Colony Main Market near Lodhi Sports & PNB. Heaven for tea lovers – all kind of tea leaves available. The other option would be to order Castleton from Goodricke Tea Company directly from their website & they will courier it to you.
Natasha Ramarathnam When it comes to tea, I am nothing if not conventional. Bring the water to boil, brew Twinings English Breakfast or Earl Grey (like both equally) for 2-3 mins, add a dash of milk, 1 tsp sugar (which I have done without for a week now).
Tanushri Datta: Since I am a Tea Planter’s daughter for me its always Darjeeling tea and nothing else !! Water to be boiled and turn off heat just as bubbles appear. Soak leaves for 3 mins in tea pot. Add sugar as per taste in the cup and pour tea from the pot. Voila!!
Jyoti Venkatesh Boil water in kettle, Twinings breakfast, tetley tea bags or Twinings chai bag, 3/4 tsp sugar. Give a stir. Dash of milk. My hot tea is ready
Sakala Appachu Debrass: I get my Orange Pekoe long leaf tea from Korakunda estate in Ooty, pour boiling water in kettle, throw out, then put a heaped teaspoon and a half more of the tea leaves in. Pour a cup of scalding hot water. Leave about 2-3 minutes to seep. Pour into a cup, add hot milk, and either honey or a lump of sugar.
Meera Jayaram: Was a long time fan of “Three Roses”. Recently shifted to “Tata Gold”.