In Search of the Perfect Chai

Last year I was in India on a spiritual pilgrimage with one of my dearest soul sisters of this lifetime, Arti.

She and I lived at Kripalu, in western Massachusetts in the 1980’s together when it was both an ashram and a program center.

We spent 10 days in Kayavarohan, Gujarat visiting the Kayavarohan Shiva Temple or The Lakulish Temple of Dadaji, the 28th incarnation of Lord Shiva who sits meditating with his back to a lingam and rests on what is called a “Parashakti” which is the symbol of the divine feminine.

The Shiva lingam symbolizes the divine masculine.

This particular temple was built by Bapuji, Swami Kripaluvandaji who was the inspiration for Kripalu Yoga and whose Guru was Dadaji the 28th incarnation of Lord Shiva.

Behind every Shiva there is also a Parvati as shown here.

The beauty and energy of this temple is palpable when visiting this sacred place.

We went to the temple twice daily to meditate and participate in the various ceremonies that were taking place.

We were so lucky to be able to stay with the amazing Indukanta who lives locally and became our close friend.

Every morning after the Arti Ceremony at the temple we went for a cup of chai at one of the local tea shops.

The owner’s son sometimes brought us our chai.

We sat and drank our little cups of the sweet black Indian tea with spices.

There were several chai wallah’s, the ones who make the tea, and sell them to their customers on the street or sidewalk next to their tea pots. Every Chai Walla has their own special spice mix recipe and each chai tastes a bit different. Here is a link to one Chai Walla in India:

When I returned home I missed that amazing hot soothing tea and the many cups of chai we had during our journey.  I was given a recipe to make it at home by two dear friends Hania and Shoba who had lived in India for many years.  Here is the email they sent me:

We learned this recipe from Sita Sharan who was a follower of Neem Karoli Baba in India in the late 60’s and 70’s. This is the chai he liked. The following recipe will make enough chai for two large cups.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 Cups of water

An inch or so of fresh ginger root sliced and bruised. You can use a teaspoon of powdered ginger if you’re out of fresh ginger.

1/2 Cup of milk

3 rounded teaspoons of black tea or 3 teabags

7 cardamom pods ground (shells and all) in a mortar and pestle

Sweetener

Directions:

Bring the water and bruised ginger to a boil. Then simmer for 

9 – 10 minutes.

Add milk, and bring back to boil, watching to make sure it doesn’t boil over. (Some practitioners say that you must bring it to a boil 3 times)

Turn off the heat, add the tea and ground cardamom and cover.

Let sit for 4 –  minutes.

Strain the chai into two cups and sweeten to taste.

In India sugar would be added with the milk. But Hania and I prefer to add honey to taste at the end.

I have varied the recipe a bit for my own taste. I add double the cardamom (I have been called the queen of cardamom by some) and I sometimes grate the ginger instead of smashing it.

I also use honey and sometimes jaggary, which is a form of unprocessed sugar cane typical in India with a distinctive flavor.

And I also substitute “Oatly” Oat milk the barista version in the grey box instead of milk sometimes or do a combo of cow and oat milk.

When I drink the chai I am transported to India and I re-connect with this magical culture.

Each Friday when I go hiking with my dear friend Anke who lived in India (and her dog Lily), I bring a thermos of this special tea and when we take our break we enjoy a beautiful cup of Chai.