Chaiiii, chaiii, chaiii, chaiii. The melodic tones snapped me back to Earth. Lost somewhere between exhaustion and relative lucidity, I immediately assessed my surroundings. First, I noted the location of my backpack. Next was to assess all points of skin contact. Realizing before bedtime that I wasn’t alone in my rail car berth, I had tucked myself in to provide a barrier. No roaches were trotting around on this passenger! Finding all to my (sub)standards, I let out a sigh. And then it sounded again passing through the corridor. Chaiii, chaiii, chaiiiiiiii.
Despite the resentment for such an abrupt awakening, I was tempted. For a second I reflected on the sweet and spicy nectar, and then reality sunk in. Chai could wait until I was sure it had come to a rolling boil. No need to entice parasites mid-way through a journey. The chai was lukewarm and the bathrooms a little short of sanitary.
Throughout my time in India, I found one constant. North, South, young, old, rich, poor — chai.
It’s no surprise this delight has caught on in the West. It takes your basic milk tea and it kicks it up. It literally adds some spice to your life. Now I get what Columbus was searching for. Spices exalt the senses.
A coffee addict at heart, I’ll never cheat, but I do like to mix it up. With the weather heating up, I was looking for something refreshing to top off my afternoons. Taking an ode from India, I gathered together my spice stash and made up a batch that’s perfect served over ice. My version uses soy, and takes into account its already-added sweetness. If you’re particularly fond of porcelain, feel free to sugar it up and rot ’em out. Next time you hear the cry of chai, you’ll be amply prepared with back-up.
Soy Chai Tea
Makes 1 cup
1/2 cup water
1 black tea bag
1 tsp crushed/coarsely chopped ginger
1 green cardamom pod
2 whole black peppercorns
1/2 cup sweet soy milk (I like Vegemil B)
1. Coarsely pound ginger, cardamom, peppercorns and clove together.
2. Bring the water to a simmer in a small pan over high heat. Add tea bag and spice mixture. Allow to simmer about 15 seconds, then remove from heat. Allow all ingredients to steep together for another 5-10 minutes, then strain.
3. Pour strained concentrate over ice. Mix with soy milk and enjoy.