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A cup of chai tea anyone?

Photo Courtesy Of Gitika Baveja

Chai tea relies on fresh ginger and dried spices to give it punch.

Chai tea has become one of the most popular drinks all around the world. Tea is sort of the national drink in India. A hot cup of tea is always served to a guest as they enter the door.

Chai tea takes me back to the simple version that my grandmother used to prepare when I visited her as a child. She would so meticulously take water in a saucepan and boil it with black tea leaves and add some cardamom powder, bits of fresh ginger, a few crushed fennel seeds and cloves. The aroma of the flavors that spread in the kitchen would make anyone nostalgic.

Little did I know at that time that chai tea would be so popular in all the major tea and coffee places in America and also be marketed and sold as concentrated powders and in ready-to-drink cartons.

Chai tea is the perfect alternative to the morning cup of coffee, a delicious blend of tea, milk and spices that is smooth and tastes great. It is also good for you – tea is packed with antioxidants.

The basic definition of chai is spiced black tea mixed with hot milk, usually sweetened. The spice mix, called chai masala, is generally made of ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper and cloves. Tea vendors in India are often seen brewing chai outdoors in large pots and serving them in small glasses.

Masala Chai (Indian Spiced Tea)

1 cup water

2 teaspoons tea leaves (you can substitute 2 tea bags)

1 whole clove

1 teaspoon ground green carda mom powder or one whole green cardamom pod, seeds removed)

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon slightly crushed fennel or anise seeds

dash of cinnamon powder (optional)

pinch of crushed black pep- per (omit if you do not like the heat)

sugar or honey (to taste)

fresh milk (to taste)

Boil water in small pan and add tea and condiments. Simmer for few minutes. Add milk, lower heat and bring to boil.

Pour into cups through strainer and add sugar according to taste. Serve hot and feel your nerves begin to relax.

Green tea version

Chai tea can also be prepared with green tea and soy milk. For a great-tasting and relaxing recipe, try this:

1 cup water

2 bags green tea

few slices fresh-sliced ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground green cardamom

4-5 tablespoons vanilla soymilk

sugar or sweetener to taste

Place water, ginger and cardamom in small saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, add green tea bags and steep for 2-3 minutes on medium flame.

Add soymilk and heat until it boils. Remove immediately from heat. Remove tea bags and strain into tea cup.

Chai tea also can be enjoyed cold. Allow chai tea to cool and strain directly into glasses filled with ice cubes. Sweeten to taste.

For more recipes or a copy of Baveja's cookbook, "Indian Flavors to Savor: The Easy Home-Cooked Way," visit www.flavorstosavor.com.

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