by Saadia Shabbir
There are three steps to making the perfect cup of chai. You start with milk. You begin to boil it over medium heat and just as the milk is about to rise, you add the tea leaves and lower the heat. You watch as the tea leaves slowly sink in to the froth. Then, there is that exhilarating moment when the leaves release a burst of color that swirls through the milk, turning it from white to a rich caramel. Now, it is time for the hardest part- waiting. Good chai requires you to wait. You need to suffer through the heat, continuously stirring the milk so that it does not burn. You cannot rush. You have to give some time to the tea leaves. You have to allow them to reach their full potential and release their entire flavor.
Soon, very soon the milk will turn to the color of dry clay. When it looks as if you are stirring the earth, it means the chai is done.
You pull out two cups and filter the chai in them, making sure the tea leaves do not fall in-that would be a disaster. You may now discard the leaves. Don’t feel too bad, they have done their job. Oh all right! If you really do not want to discard them, then you can use them as fertilizer for the flowers you keep on your balcony.
You add sugar to the chai and stir. Taste it so that it is not too bitter, or too sweet. Add a pinch of salt and stir again. Put the two cups on a try and take them to the living room where you husband is sitting, watching the news. Offer him a cup of chai. He will look at it, raise an eye-brow and say,
“Where is my coffee?”