Masala Chai Recipe

This is my recipe for masala chai, or Indian spiced milk tea. I sometimes get a craving for something satisfyingly warming, and full-flavoured and this really hits the spot with gingerbread spices infused into a cup of milk tea.

pouring chai

 

Ingredients:

Milk – 500ml

Water – 500ml

Black Tea – 2 teabags. I recommend using a tea that you wouldn’t consider very high quality for this considering that it is going to be added to milk and spices and boiled quite aggressively. So for once, I am actually going to sanction teabags

Sugar or whichever sweetener you prefer to taste

Spices:

Cloves – 2 or 3

Cinnamon – 1 stick

Cardamom – 1 or 2 pods

Optional:

Ginger (dried or fresh) – half a slice or a half teaspoon

Star Anise around 1/4 of a star

Black Peppercorns – 6 peppercorns

Mace and fennel seeds are also sometimes added.

You can adjust the above quantities depending on your preference.

Equipment:

Pestle and Mortar (if you will grind your own spices)

Saucepan

Recipe:

Step 1: In a pestle and mortar, grind down all of the spices. It is up to you whether to grind them coursely or finely.

cloves

Step 2: Add all of the spices to a dry saucepan. At this point, you can either toast them for a few minutes by turning on a medium heat and swirling the pan occasionally or you can directly add the rest of the ingredients.

Step 3: Let the mixture boil up and rise, and then turn down the heat or lift the pan, to let the mixture down again. Do this three or four times.

Step 4: Strain into cups, or glasses or pour into a teapot to serve. Masala chai is more flavourful, and rounded when it is homemade.

As there are many recipes for masala chai, let me know how you like yours.

 

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一期一会 “Once in a lifetime meeting”

The above phrase is in Japanese and can be translated in a variety of different ways. Literally the meaning is “one lifetime, one meeting”. It is pronounced ichi-go ichi-e. Japanese has a range of four character idiomatic phrases called yojijukugo  四字熟語, of which this is a famous one. It is closely connected to the Japanese tea ceremony, and it expresses the idea that every meeting amongst people is unique, and cannot really be repeated and therefore should be cherished.

This idea is what I want my company to be all about, appreciating each occasion that we receive to spend time meeting people for tea, which we will prepare as best as we can.

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Ichi-go ichi-e written on the wall in the guest room of a friend’s house, expressing the same feeling that every meeting is a once-in-a-lifetime event and should be treasured.

Even though the same people can see each other again, the same meeting cannot really be repeated. The Japanese tea ceremony is therefore based on the idea of preparing for and enacting your role with great sincerity and care, in order to honour this unique meeting with your guests or host. Ichi-go ichi-e is connected to the Japanese appreciation of the sadness and beauty of impermanence.

However we consider it philosophically, gongfu cha is a longer process than drinking tea western style, so it encourages people to talk to each other, and enjoy the tea that they drink. It is also very often a novel activity, and a conversation starter. For people for whom gongfu cha is a novel activity, high quality tea is often a novel drink as well, so we can use it to form friendships, enjoy something nice and healthy together, and share an interest all at once.

 

Come and drink tea with us!

 

If you are in London in January or February,  come to our upcoming tea cafe event.

Click the link below to let us know when you would like Chessers Tea to host a tea cafe.

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/9B5SX3M

Spread the word to anyone who might like to come.

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7 interesting things about Taiwan

Happy New Year!

Here is a slight diversion from tea, but I am currently editing a video of tea-making that will come soon. Meanwhile, here are a list of 7 interesting things in Taiwan.

  • So Many Mopeds

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People in Taiwan travel around on mopeds a lot. It seems that car ownership is increasing and there are also moves to encourage people to use public transport. Personally though, I really enjoy riding on the back of a motorcycle. It is common to see people carrying copious shopping and one or even two (if small) passengers.

  • Temples

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There are many temples in Taiwan, and they are spectacular buildings. Once, we even saw an illegal film being filmed from a projector at a temple. I also noticed a large number of Churches in my most recent visit.

  • Temple Processions

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From time to time, you can see temple processions as in the image above. They sometimes also set off ground level fireworks, so it’s advisable to keep your distance a little.

  • Burning Money

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Part of worshiping practises in Taiwan includes the burning of money. People don’t use real money, but joss paper, that can be bought very cheaply for this purpose.

  • Karaoke

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A common form of evening entertainment in Taiwan is karaoke, often over a meal, or at least over drinks and snacks. Passion is more important and fun than talent (the microphones usually have an adjustable echo, which will flatter your voice and you can usually change the musical key as well if it’s too low or too high for you).

  • More Independent Businesses

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Huge chain stores are not as common as elsewhere, and there are many independent businesses and smaller chain stores. This is one of the things I really love about Taiwan, and I hope it will be protected.

  • Convenience Stores

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As well as buying food, there are many things you can do at convenience stores in Taiwan such as paying bills, sending deliveries, and buying tickets for public transport, films and concerts!

Image sources:
Picture of GuanDu temple-Taipei-Taiwan-P1010106.JPG: By No machine-readable author provided. Ellery assumed (based on copyright claims). [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.                                           File url:https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0a/GuanDu_temple-Taipei-Taiwan-P1010106.JPG
Picture of Burning fake money.JPG: By Clemensmarabu (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons                                                          File url:https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/90/Burning_fake_money.JPG
Picture of Hitokara at Karaoke-Box.jpg: By Orataw (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons                                                             File url: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/79/Hitokara_at_Karaoke-Box.jpg
Picture of Taipei City Nanyang Street 20130127.jpg: By Solomon203 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons                                                              File url:  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0c/Taipei_City_Nanyang_Street_20130127.jpg
Picture of Taipei Bridge Station 7-ELEVEN.jpg: By Mike8411251995 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons                                                              File url: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6d/Taipei_Bridge_Station_7-ELEVEN.jpg

 

Tea and Wine

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The tea on the left appears to be Japanese sencha green tea judging by the size of the cups and the dark green colour of the tea.

To introduce people to the world of fine teas, I have found it useful to show that there are parallels with fine wines.

For example, to describe tea, terms are borrowed from wine production such as terroir.

Terroir

Terroir is the idea that the place in which something is grown will affect the flavour, alongside factors such as rainfall, sunshine, humidity, altitude, soil, drainage, fog or mist etc.

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The farm where our black tea is grown. A lot of mist and dew at over 2000m above sea level.

 

Different tea growing regions specialise in particular kinds of tea, and the terroir has a strong effect on producing distinctive teas. The Wuyi mountains in China’s eastern Fujian province produce oolongs that have a “rock taste”, and are called rock teas, yan cha, because the tea farms in Wuyi are close to many large natural rock formations that result in a mineral-tasting tea. In Taiwan, mountains over 1000m that range to around 2700m above sea level are home to the world-famous high mountain oolong, gao shan cha. The distinctively fresh, and fragrant taste comes partly from the terroir: fog, a high elevation, rich soil, and plentiful sunshine and rain in Taiwan’s tea farms.

Like wine, tea is often aged. This is to improve or mellow flavours, and fine aged teas can achieve a high price by virtue of their ageing.

During tasting, tea is slurped over the tongue to open all flavours, rather as is done in wine tasting. With years of experience, people develop their palates to discern more and more flavours and complexity in tea. This is usually accompanied by a desire for a more concentrated and intense brew.

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A cup of pu’erh, which is Chinese fermented tea. The flavour was very earthy.

As with wine, tasting tea is very often done with great care. Each stage of a sip is important and tea drinkers pay attention to aroma (sometimes using a separate cup to smell from), and the viscosity and taste: whether the tea is more vegetal or earthy, more mineral or sweet, and this can become more detailed for some people who describe which vegetables, and which nuts a tea may be similar to. Traditionally the aftertaste is sometimes more important, to notice for example whether a tea will return a sweet flavour to the mouth after it is swallowed. Unlike wine drinkers, some tea drinkers are also interested in the experience of qi, which when referring to tea is basically a pleasant sensation of energy in the body after drinking tea. Qi is a concept that comes Taoism and Chinese traditional medicine, and refers to the belief in an essential energy in all things in the universe, but that can be experienced and used.

If you are looking for a non-alcoholic alternative, that is delicious and is very interesting, I encourage you to explore premium teas.

Tea Tasting and Talks at SOAS

Chessers Tea had the opportunity yesterday to give some talks at SOAS university in London about tea, Taiwan, and Taiwan’s indigenous aboriginal population. The evening was a chance for university students to experience a wide variety of performances and speeches from different cultures and countries, as well as an opportunity to try food from Nigeria, Japan and sample our Taiwanese tea for free. Some memorable examples included a performance of Indian classical dance, an Aikido demonstration and music from West Africa. As well as presenting a talk, we also had a table with all of our teas, that allowed people to see and taste tea served in the gong fu style.

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Farmers’ Hands

The hands of a tea farmer, from hours spent in a strong sun doing manual work have large fingers, browned skin and many callouses.

Tea farmers are genuinely fascinating people, and most unexpectedly one feature of tea farmers that always caught my attention are their hands and mannerisms, as they present an interesting contrast. That tea farmers’ hands should be commonly browned from the sun and battered from their work is unsurprising. What is surprising is the delicacy and gentleness with which they pick up and consider any object under their attention. While their work is physical and difficult it also requires a discerning touch and care to select two leaves and a bud from a tea bush without damaging any leaves, which would make the sap come out and dry and oxidise the tea prematurely. Later, they observe individual leaves at different stages of processing as tea is made essentially according to a seasoned judgement and tried and tested experience, as opposed to timers or overly mechanised production. This contrast in rough but gentle pairs of hands is one that I found interesting and inspired my admiration.

The hands of the farmer of a tea farm although prematurely aged and feel like sandpaper are to be admired and respected. Beauty is not always obvious to the human eye.