Chai la Luna


(The title is a Godfather-geek reference to the song that Mama Corleone sings in the wedding scene of Godfather I – possibly the best scene in all of film.)

The first time I ever heard of chai, that spicy tea-milk drink that soothes my soul, was in an Indian restaurant in Chicago. My big family had ordered a big Indian meal and we were all eating and eating, family-style. When our food first arrived at the table, a man walked into the restaurant and ordered a chai. Then he sat down and waited for his order. My family ate and ate all our glorious dishes and Chai Man sat and sat and waited. When we were (finally!) all done eating and our bill arrived, the man (finally!) got his chai and took it to-go. He was not at all upset that he had waited 25 minutes for his silly tea drink. I remember thinking, “That’s one patient guy or some really good tea.”

Years later I know the answer: chai is some really good tea. Chai is a beautifully balanced drink: the soothing tea-milk base is rich and mellow,while the feisty Indian spices give chai its dramatic personality. I love to make a single serving of chai when I’m in the mood to warm up with a magazine. (And literally warm up: our house is freezing for half the year.)

I learned how to make authentic Indian chai from my friend, Lorraine, who spoils her quilting group with warm hospitality (and great chai). I’ve tweaked her recipe a bit just to suit my less-exotic cupboard. This recipe is for one serving, but is easily multiplied so you can impress multiple friends. Enjoy.

Chai la Luna

1 c. water

1 c. milk

1 t. chai masala*

2 tea bags Irish Breakfast tea or 2 t. loose tea**

sugar to taste

Combine water, milk and spices in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Stirring constantly to prevent scalding, bring to boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add tea. Let steep for two minutes. Strain into tea cup and add sugar to taste. Makes one serving.

* Chai masala is a spice mixture blended specifically for chai and is found in Indian grocery stores. I still haven’t made it to my Indian grocery store, so I crush my own blend of spices. I use: 10 white peppercorns, 14 anise seeds, 7 whole cloves, 1 small stick cinnamon (broken), and 1/4 t. cardamom. You can crush spice with a mortal and pestle or on a cutting board with the back of mixing spoon.

** Lorraine’s recipe calls for green tea, but I like a stouter tea taste. Use your favorite tea.