500 Mile Chai
It’s time to finish up our Chai month exploration and the final stop on the tour is of course India.
Our featured tea this time is 500 Mile Chai and it has perhaps the most evocative story of all the chai blends.
The tale of ‘500 Mile Chai’ originates from the many late night truck drivers stopping at small Chai stands, ‘Dhabas’, on the highway and asking for really strong, sweet Chai to help them drive “for another 500 miles.”
Chai is an integral part of life in India and simply translates to ‘Tea’ in Hindi. (So when you order a Chai Tea, you are really ordering a Tea Tea.) In India, ‘Chaiwallahs’ (tea vendors) are present at street corners, brewing basic black tea with spices. They offer Chai in simple kettles and small tapered glasses. ‘Kasoras’ (Chai Cups) made of low fired clay are also traditional and impart a distinct earthiness to the brew.
500 Mile Chai, which we source from the Tao of Tea, is a hand blended mix of organic black tea and organic spices – ginger, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon – which makes a rich, malty, and spicy brew.
The grade of tea commonly used for Chai is known as ‘Cut, Tear and Curl (CTC)’, a heavily rolled black tea leaf ideal for boiling. Simply boil leaf in water (around a teaspoon per 8 ounces) for 3 minutes. Add the milk of your choice in ratio of about 1/4 milk to 3/4 water, stir and simmer for another 2 minutes. Strain the brew to remove tea leaves and add the sweetener of your choice.
For years, my Sunday morning routine has included brewing up a pot of 500 Mile Chai and relaxing with the delightful golden glow of the tea. Add in a reasonably challenging crossword puzzle and what more could you ask for? (Perhaps some scones.)