The mixed spice tea beverage from India is found all over the world – but did you know about its dark past? The Financial Times’ Anjli Raval shares its history – and her family’s own recipe.
In most Indian households, the day starts after bathing, praying and breakfast. But for me, even when I was younger and religious, chai has always come before God.
It is not just a cup of tea or a caffeine hit. Each morning, the terracotta drink cures me of the previous day and sets me up for the next. It is a healing tonic that relieves and rejuvenates.
In its simplest form, masala chai is made with strong black tea leaves, milk and often water, simmered with sugar and spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and black pepper. The aromas that fill the air within minutes of heating up the saucepan have an uplifting effect long before the sweet, spicy elixir touches the lips.
These joyful sensations are compounded only when, after a sip or two, I take a bite of something savoury – hot buttered toast, a samosa or fafda gathia, a crispy chickpea-flour snack from Gujarat…