A nice strong cup of tea is just the job. If I am lucky enough for someone else to make it, I ask for a builder’s brew and in Britain, people usually know what you mean. Usually I make my own and I call it ‘English’ tea and I never have it with sugar.
For ‘English’ tea I have to admit, shock horror, that I use tea bags as I do not usually have the time for the tea leaf and pot option, despite having some pretty tea pots.
When I have time to make tea and if the family are around, then I go for the big guns, massalla chai. The heady fragrance of the chai evokes summer days of the children’s childhood. Their cousins coming around to play. Me making them pancakes, their favourite, sprinkled with sugar and lemon juice, hot off the pan, and yes, properly tossed, much to their delight.
My massalla chai has no black pepper or ginger. I know that is a travesty to some people but I draw the line at that. I know in India, a smidge of black pepper on a sliced banana can elevate it to a dessert, a bit like the salted caramel combination that is the craze in the West these days, but I don’t like it in tea.
I start with a pan on the cooker, half filled with boiling water from the kettle. I add green cardamom, black cardamom, fennel seeds, and cinnamon sticks after roughly crushing them using a pestle and mortar. As the spices bubble in the water, I add sugar, and then Assam and Darjeeling tea leaves. After they have simmered for a while, I add milk and bring it all to a hissing boil, turning off the heat just before it erupts over.
Straining off the tea leaves and spices is a challenge to wrist strength but the tea is delicious. And if you have a hot home made samosa and imli (tamarind) chutney to go with it, the contrast is just sublime.