Friday, November 16, 2012

Thankful in India :: Tea Done Right

Tea. Nothing else in my day gets me started quite like a strong cup of tea. I prefer mine strong, hot, black, sweet. Yes I'm still talking about tea. Stay with me people.

Tea comes from all over the world, but there is nothing quite like the flavors from India. Darjeeling is the mostly widely known variety; grown on the slopes of the Himalayas in the northeast part of India. 

But a lesser known variety is actually the one my husband's family prefers: Assam, a high plateau region even further northeast in India which straddles the Brahmaputra River. It is the largest tea-growing region in the world. The first harvest in Assam can have a fragrant, fresh, flowery and slightly spicy character. Yum! 

Assam is the region my mother-in-law grew up in. I told a bit about her story many blogs back. Her home was a small village in the Garo Hills of Assam. Her father, a local missionary, was the only man in the village with a gun. And so when a tiger would venture into the village (and threaten life or livestock) he would be called to handle the matter - pronto. My husband grew up with the stories and the skins of these big cats his grandfather shot.

I've always been a tea lover, but I had never had Chai before visiting India. And when I came home I craved it. Looked for it, and then tried it at Starbucks. It was like liquefied pumpkin pie. Now Pumpkin pie is perfectly fine --- on Thanksgiving, after turkey. But first thing in the morning when you are expecting straight up tea? I don't know what they do to it over at Starbucks, but letmetellya ... that ain't Chai. 

REAL Chai is strong black tea boiled with spices like cardamon, star anise, cloves, cinnamon. Most of the street vendors I saw making it also included the sugar when bringing the mixture to a boil. Once piping hot, milk is added then carfully brought back up to just under a boil (as you would not want to burn the milk). The Indian version of Chai still tastes like tea, only with a spiciness to it. Starbucks? not so much.

So this is my last installment of Thankful in India. I will give you the final top 10 on Thanksgiving Day, so check back next week. A few of you have said you enjoyed this series, and so I was considering doing another one about shopping in India. If you all want more stories, let me know!

15 comments:

A Half-Baked Notion said...

OMG... India and tea in one post; I am so jealous now, Cynthia! And now shopping? Excuse me while I wipe away the drool LOL.

Jacquelineand.... said...

Oh my, now that is a tea I want to try! Although herbal teas are generally my favourites I do enjoy a good green or black tea from time to time.

Would you be terribly shocked if I admitted I've never set foot in a Starbucks?

BeadedTail said...

I don't drink coffee but I love tea! I haven't tried chai yet but now I want to and I know not to go to Starbucks! I enjoyed your series and would like to see one on shopping too.

Katherines Corner said...

Thank you for sharing at the Thursday Favorite Things hop xo

LisaS said...

Love the chai at starbucks and am not surprised to hear it is not much like the original...liquid pumpkin pie is a better description;)

Rose said...

Chai has been one of my favorite teas for many years now! I love the rich flavor.

Duni said...

I'm a big tea drinker and I drink mostly Assam or Yuncui which is a green tea blend. You are absolutely right about the Chai at Starbucks - tastes nothing like real Chai. Have you tried white tea before? The fragrance is divine :)

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

I like my tea nice and strong, too! The stronger the better. I don't think I've tried Chai, to be honest, and I'm not sure why. I'll have to check that out.

Yes, I would love to hear more stories related to India! It's such a fascinating place.

Christine Altmiller said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this for so many reasons.
First, was I the only one who derailed at the second sentence and turned to thoughts of Blair Underwood?
And the link to the post about your Mother-in-Law being a little girl in India and the train ride/hole in the floor-seeing the tracks while you are doing your thing.....
And tea. I always leave and come back and leave and come back with tea. This has me wanting to come back to it again.

More India! More More!

memoriesforlifescrapbooks said...

I'm usually a coffee drinker, but these teas sound very tasty! The Chai sounds great!

Mama Zen said...

I would love more stories!

Miss Val's Creations said...

I know the tea you are talking about! The most memorable cup I ever had was given to me by an Indian family I purchased a condo from (it was a strange transaction where my dad was the listing agent and I was also his buyer). Well we were sitting at the table and the Indian gentleman asked if we would like some tea. I said sure but had no idea what I was in for! It was amazing and there were actual chunks of spices in it!!!

Great story about your husband's grandfather!

Marcela Gmd said...

In Yoga they recommended green tea as a great antioxidant and am already addicted to it ...
All that you decide will be fine ....
Besos, Marcela♥

Kashmira said...

You will be surprised to know I do not drink tea, hate it in fact.
Its not given to kids under 10-12 usually, and the reason given is, see how dark it is? your skin will turn dark like that. Of course, the real reason was the caffeine in it.
So I was not given tea as a child, and then I saw my sister totally addicted to it, like she would be a scary person to be around if she did not get her tea at 4. I did not want to be that person. So never started. Now, I just don't feel like it.

My husband is an addict too. He won't wake up without knowing there is tea waiting for him. Once, we ran out of milk and he was ok with me making it with coffee creamer. He just needed his tea!

I HATE it when they call it Chai Tea here at Starbucks. Chai is the same things as Tea. So its like saying "I would like Tea Tea please". Sounds stupid? You bet!

Shaiha said...

If you would like a good chai try Mark T Wendall. I am a tea addict and reviewer and one of my quests was to find a good chai and they have one of best.

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