It’s easy to get mesmerized by the sight of a teapot, short and stout, with a handle and a spout. If you’re a hopeless teapot fanatic, so much so that when you see swirls of floral motifs on a teapot at a yard sale, you conjure up images of the English countryside, with primly manicured gardens spreading out like a vast picnic blanket, enough to sit a little family that eats, drinks and reads a lot..where tea is poured ceremoniously into dainty china cups with gilded rims and handles..salty crackers snap and crackle, kissing upperlips with a powdery coating..you probably see a happy kite afloat in the air above, where bluebirds flit and butterflies flutter.
But it is possible to be a tea fanatic even if you are not in possession of the snazziest teapots, or if your thirst for a shot of caffeine is so overbearing that it is impossible to daydream about English countryside tea picnics. Tea is such a rage lately that its variegated forms and fusions on supermarket shelves can send one into a tizzy. But why look outside your pantry, or Patel’s store when you can have antioxidants in abundance, with a kick of caffeine, in the simplest form?
The Black Masala Chai that stirs our senses in the Tadka kitchens on dreary winter mornings is actually a blend of the Kashmiri Kahwa, the Karnataka Kashaya and the all-too-familiar Herbal Tea of the West. A blend of spices go into a cup of boiling water, along with half a teaspoon of our very own Red Label tea leaves..cardamom, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, ginger (dry or fresh), bay leaf, and peppercorns.
The bubbles will pop gently, caressing your face with a warm, spicy vapor as you let the concoction sit on a flameless stovetop for 5-8 minutes. After straining it into your cup, you can stir in some crystal sugar, squeeze a generous serving of fresh lime, scatter a few mint leaves. If you are wary of the tea dust that wiggles its way through the tea strainer, here’s a golden tip: use a coffee filter paper lining cushioned into your tea strainer. Also, the same tea can be chilled and had on bright and perky summer mornings, no matter where you are.
Chahwa? Chaika? Take your pick..but call it what you may, be warned that it is rather invigorating, so if you plan to curl up in bed or transform into a spasmodic couch potato, this may not be the right beverage for you. One swig and you’ll be ready to take on the world and its many monsters!