Words and Images: Mat Arney  Additional Images: David Williams (where stated)

“We had a kettle; we let it leak:

Our not repairing made it worse.

We haven’t had any tea for a week…

The bottom is out of the Universe.”

– Rudyard Kipling

Until recently, if I went into a coffee shop I was there exclusively for coffee.  That was until I was persuaded to order a chai tea latte and was instantly transported back to a trip that I took to Sri Lanka a few years ago.  Chai is just the Hindi word for tea (which can be served black or with milk and sugar), whereas what’s served up in coffee shops is actually Masala chai…curried tea.

Back in the 1830’s the British East India company started to become concerned about the Chinese monopoly on tea production which accounted for the majority of its trade.  They began to encourage colonists to cultivate the assam tea plants that had grown locally since time immemorial and between 1870 and 1900 the consumption of Chinese tea in Great Britain dropped from 90% to just 10%, replaced by tea from British India and British Ceylon.  Despite this, tea was not consumed as a recreational drink on the Indian sub-continent until the Indian Tea Association (which was British owned) started to promote it and persuaded Indian industrialists to provide tea breaks for their workers. Chai vendors (chaiwalas) took the British mode of drinking tea and increased the amount of milk and sugar, then added various spices to flavour it further and masala chai is now widely consumed across the Indian subcontinent and the rest of the world.

To make a Chinese whispers version of chai tea, try this recipe:

1 x  395 can of sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

A pinch of pepper

A small pinch of garam masala

1 star anise

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How to make / do:

1. Mix all of the ingredients together in an old jam jar and allow it to sit for a while, ideally overnight.

2. Make a mug of strong black tea and dollop a spoonful or so of this mixture in and stir well.

NB. There’s no need to add milk or sugar, and you can adjust the taste to suit by adding more or less of the mixture.


If you like that, try this: MAKE // DO Elderflower Cordial