Winters are best spent basking in the sun, sipping on hot tea accompanied by crispy and spicy snacks. Here we have seven tea brews from among the many recipes and tea leaves consumed in India.
Gur-gur chai, Ladakh
The dry cold climate of Ladakh made its people invent the calorie-dense gur-gur chai, made from easily available local ingredients. Better known as butter tea, it is made from yak milk, butter, salt, and Tibetan tea leaves from Pemagul. Consumed daily, it is an essential part of the day of the Ladakhis. A one-in-all drink, the gur-gur chai is a cup of energy that staves off the ills the winter brings. Usually had with fresh bread, it is also had with tsampa. An acquired taste, the gur-gur chai&rsquos salty flavour will soon settle on you. Reportedly, the best gur-gur chai is served at Leh&rsquos Hemis monastery. You will find versions of this tea in many parts of these regions across international boundaries.
Noon Chai, Kashmir
Another salty tea originates from the cold northern regions of India, which is Kashmir this time. The noon chai, or pink salt tea or sheer chai, is set apart from the rest of the tea preparations by its colour and taste. The colour is due to adding baking soda to the Kashmiri tea leaves. The two react to give a deep rose hue, further lightened by aerating the tea mixture by whipping it. Remember to boil the water first, add the baking soda, and then the other ingredients, such as cardamom, star anise, etc., can be added. After this, the tea leaves go in and, after a boil, the milk and the salt. If you are so inclined, you can add a dash of fresh cream and serve it with dried fruits, naan, or even a butter-bread sandwich.
Nathdwara Chai, Rajasthan
Once you savour a cup of Nathdwara tea, you will want another one. It is an addiction that goes beyond the call of the tea leaves and the sugar in it. The humble mint buttressed its siren call. All you need to do is bring water to a boil, add tea leaves, and take it off the flame to let the leaves steep for a minute or so. Add crushed ginger root, keep the tea to boil for about a minute, and then add the milk and brew the mixture for five minutes. The mint goes in last and only requires a quick boil on a high flame serve it with a bit of sugar. Don&rsquot boil the mint too long, or the tea may become bitter.
Ukado Chai, Gujarat
Most Gujarati households will have this tea ready in a jiffy as soon as someone complains of a runny nose or a sore throat. Ukado is made with and without tea leaves, but it has plenty of other ingredients that give it a unique flavour. Milk is boiled with sugar, lemongrass, mint, and ginger shavings and left to simmer for five to eight minutes. And, lo and behold, ukado is ready.
Cutting Chai, Mumbai, Maharashtra
Mumbai and cutting chai are synonymous. The small ribbed glass comprising a maximum of three sips of the tea is what every tea-drinking Mumbaiite would push through the most crowded places for. An intensely flavoured tea, cutting chai pairs well with spicy Indian snacks such as vada pav, kanda bhaji, bread-butter, and of course, the samosa. Boiled for at least 10 minutes, the tea is flavoured with cardamom powder, crushed ginger, milk, sugar, and of course, tea leaves. Everything but the milk and the tea leaves are added to water and boiled for a couple of minutes. Once the fragrance presents itself, the tea leaves are added, and a minute later, the milk. The tea is then brewed for a couple more minutes before being served. Remember to brew longer if you use lighter teas.
Kashai Chai, Mangalore, Karnataka
More a herbal tea or kadha, the Kashai chai of Mangalore, is milk-based and includes perhaps all the spices in our kitchen. It is said to help boost the immune system and soothe the senses. It is flavoured with cumin, peppercorns, coriander, dry ginger, cardamom, nutmeg powders, mulethi, and jaggery. The spices are dry roasted, cooled, ground into a powder, and added to the water. After a slow boil, a bit of milk is added, simmered, and the tea is served once the jaggery has been mixed in. The tea will keep Mangalorean winter chills a bay.
Meter Chai, Kerala
A frothy brew, which is famed for the skill with which it is made rather than the ingredients which go into it, the meter chai, is now part of Kerala&rsquos heritage. The tea mixture is poured from one container to the other in order to aerate the brew and create the froth. This pouring is done from as far as the chaiwalas&rsquo hands can extend. They stop pouring when the containers are a meter apart, which is how the tea received its name. The artful chaiwalas of Kerala are experts at meter chai, and not a drop is spilled. This winter, why don&rsquot you give it a try at home Be warm with effort, and maintain it with the tea