Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Chai Tea

Tea. It's something that we very much take for granted these days. When we want one, we just put the kettle on, whack a tea bag into a cup, pour boiling water over the bag, jiggle it a bit and voila - a good ole' cuppa!

But that's not the kind of tea we drank when I was a kid. We had a tea pot, a tin of tea leaves and a well weathered strainer. Tea bags were non-existent in my house! My parents loved a well brewed cup of tea. They also liked a good sleep in. So when I was about eight years old, I appointed myself the official maker of Breakfast In Bed.

The menu was simple: toast and tea. Toast was easy enough, but the first time I made a pot of tea to go with it, I was mortified by my father's reaction. "Cat's pee!" he exclaimed after one little sip. This of course would be enough to crumble the enthusiams of most kids, but not me! The following Sunday I set about working on my tea making technique - with a little bit of coaching from Mum, of course!

There were several very important steps vital to the perfect cup of pot brewed tea. Firstly, the old tea leaves had to be emptied from the pot. In retrospect I realise it was naughty, but we rinsed the rehydrated tea leaves down the kitchen sink. Next we filled the freshly cleansed pot (no scrubbing with detergent - it ruins the flavour) with hot water and set it on the sink. This served to warm the pot in readiness. As the kettle approached, Mum swirled the water in the pot - once - twice - then poured it into the sink. Three scoops of tea leaves were then added to the pot and the water from the kettle was poured in - still on the rolling boil.

Next, my mum told me, the lid went onto the tea pot, and it was time to let the tea draw. She explained that this was where the tea had a chance to develop its flavour. The leaves would soak up the boiling water, rehydrating and releasing their delicate flavour into a full bodied tea. At least three minutes were required for this - but five was better.

We set two tea cups out on the breakfast tray - not mugs! Those were for coffee. Into each a dash of milk was poured. This was the English way to pour tea - milk first so as not to scold it by adding it to boiling hot tea. Don't ask me why this matters - recently I've heard the Queen doesn't even put the milk in her tea cup first, so I'm not sure why we should either!

I positioned the toast, butter and jam on the tray alongside the teacups and the teapot, then carried the heavily loaded tray to my dad, who was still in bed. He placed the strainer over his cup, poured the tea into the milk, added one teaspoon of sugar then took a sip. I watched his face closely - he was a hard man to please back then. "Hmmpf!" he said, nodding his head, then picking up a slice of toast. "Very good." I was thrilled.

1 cup milk (soy is best)
1 tsp chai tea mix (Byron Bay Chai is my favourite)
1 tsp honey
boiling water

1. Pour milk into a heat proof glass jug (Fire King) and warm in microwave oven for two minutes.

2. Empty your kettle and fill it with fresh water. Fresh water contains more oxygen than already boiled water.

3. Prepare an individual sized tea pot by rinsing it with hot tap water. As the kettle boils, pour the water out and add chai tea mix and honey. Pour boiling water into tea pot while still on the boil. Allow tea to draw for a full five minutes.

4. Choose your drinking vessel - cup or mug. Fill one third of the cup with chai tea. Fill remaining two thirds of cup with warmed milk. Stir to ensure honey is well combined. Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

Surely that which passes as 'cooking' or a 'recipe' cannot be so very different in Australia and Britain! Instructions on how to make a cup of tea? - Generally we pour milk into the cup first so that the two liquids blend in a more uniform manner, not to avoid scalding the milk (this would happen whether you added boiling hot tea to the milk or added the milk to the boiling hot tea if this were the aim). Also, can the instructions and suggestions from the side of a box of 'chai tea' (chai means tea, so this is really rather like calling it 'tea tea') really count as a recipe?

Ruthie said...

Actually, I found that this item has some very useful hints on creating the perfect cuppa - my brew certainly has improved after reading this! And I am English! As for the pouring order, I don't know whether milk will scold but I think the oprder makes a difference. Chai tea is something we have inherited from another culture (and I'm grateful for that!) but in most English speaking countries 'chai tea' is how it is known and distinguished from that which we call 'tea' on a daily basis (and my packet doesn't mention honey...).

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