All my life, I thought that tea was steeped in water just under boiling temperature. Herbal teas often consumed in the Caribbean and elsewhere where people are in tune with the medicinal benefits of herbs. Ancient cultures have long boiled herbs or infused them, depending on their individual qualities and the potency needed. Whether boiled or steeped, I had only seen the infusion in water. So imagine my surprise when I learned recently that you can actually infuse tea in milk!
For me, that was a Eureka moment, as I thought that milk always halted the diffusion process. That is so normally, but now the way I was shown by my sister-friend. She made authentic Bombay Kadak Chai and was pleased to show me how. I was thrilled! BTW, Bombay is still the name that the people of Bombay associate with what has been re-branded as Mumbai. As a manager of many re-branding campaigns myself, I know all too well that such things never really work within the communities that are most involved with the original brand. Anyway, off with the communication strategy discourse and on with the Kadak Chai!
Chai can be made with loose leaf black tea or even tea bags. There are a few tricks of the trade though. Always add to milk on the stove. If using bags, tear them open. We used four bags for three cups. You may use any cow’s milk form of your choice: full fat, low fat, skimmed, powdered (reconstituted) or even condensed sweetened milk (diluted with water). I love the creaminess that full fat milk brings to the chai so that is my personal preference.
Step 1: Add tea to milk in saucepan over low heat. Use 4 teaspoons loose leaf/4 tea bags for every three cups. When making a single cup, I use 2 teaspoons loose/2 bags.
Step 2: Once added, stir the tea constantly. Do not leave. Use low heat to brew slowly and to prevent furiously dangerous hot milky overflow.
Step 3: The milk will eventually boil into foamy bubbles. You will notice that the colour has changed from white to a caramel cream colour. At this point, reduce heat or the best thing is simply to …
Step 4: Remove it from heat. It will still continue to infuse. The stronger you want it, the more you should heat it. I found this way more potent than coffee and equivalent to two Red Bulls as is. So having it too late in the day may not be a great idea if you have any remote wish to go to bed on time. However, if you want to be speed chasing Formula 1 cars on two legs, by all means, knock yourself out and return to stove to reduce and further infuse.
Step 5: However, the rest of us simply remove, allow the tea to settle a bit then strain. As it cools it also thickens into a delicious richness (well moreso if you do not have fatphobia and have not excluded the fat from the milk in the first place).
Step 6: Arrange your tea tray as formally or informally as you wish. This was a light, informal gathering of sister friends and while both our host and the lady who made this kadak chai are the queens of formal entertainment, this was simply a relaxed gathering with no need for formalities or the requisite opulence. Though we all thought these camel sitting gold mugs were just too cute!
Step 7: If desired, add sweetener to taste and serve immediately. This makes a great post meal pick-me-up especially after the familiar fatigue of over indulgence. Or simply just a great way to start your morning or make it through a long day. You can serve at the end of your brunch for a lovely exotic, Indian touch.
STEWARD’S NOTE: This tastes nothing like regular tea with milk. When you make it, you will know why I wrote an entire article about it in my previous post. Thanks to our host, Claudia Pryce for sharing her great friends with me and to Muna for taking the time and being so helping in allowing me to document it. Umera and Nasrat added lots of spice and flavour to our hours-long gathering. As we say in Jamaica, “Good friends are better than pocket money.”