Having been in India for over a week now, I can assuredly say that I have developed a habit for afternoon chai. There is something respectable about this common daily ritual that is enjoyed by all demographics….a sophistication in simplicity.

​From a practical sense, it helps to bridge the hunger gap between lunch and the late dinners that are typical here. Cookies or sweet crackers may be an accompaniment. It is also a social time to share a cup and a chat.

Fresh spice aromas and the warm, slightly caffeinated pick-me-up are especially comforting on days like today, which we spent tromping around in the heavy snowfall in Shimla.

Chai literally translates as “tea”, so saying “chai tea” (like we do in the States) is redundant. The recipes for chai vary by region, by household and by cook. Here is Lalu’s version that he kindly prepares for us every afternoon:

ENA LODGE CHAI

For 5 tea-cup size portions (~5 oz each)
  • 22 oz water
  • 2 whole cardamom seed pods, lightly crushed
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 5 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 2.5 T black dried loose leaf tea
  • 6 oz milk – or to desired color

Place water in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil as you add crushed cardamom pods, grated ginger, sugar and tea.

Boil for about 5 minutes or longer if you want a stronger cup. Turn down heat slightly, add milk and simmer for a few minutes until a golden-brown color develops on the top foam.

​Pour through a small fine-mesh strainer directly into your chai cups. Enjoy while steaming hot with friends, preferably with a mountain view.

Since chai is boiled, it is a safe way to hydrate for Americans with sensitive GI tracts. We have enjoyed chai in rural villages, at the Golden Temple, at road-side dhabas and in the coziness of our Shimla home. It has been an enjoyable experience every single cup.  Namaste.


BY MEGAN ELLISON

Megan is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Specialist in Obesity & Weight Management and a Certified Diabetes Educator. Megan plays a key role in development and supervision of Cultural Passage’s Nutrition & Dietetics program. She is also the owner of Sound Dietitians. One of Megan’s passions is in mentoring the next generation of nutrition professionals which she fulfills though her work with Cultural Passage and by hosting dietetic interns at Sound Dietitians. Megan is also an adjunct instructor for Seattle Pacific University and the Coordinator for the SPU Dietetic Internship. For exercise, Megan prefers dance and yoga and for relaxation she plays piano.