Of Chai and Chewbacca

NOTE:  I meant for this post to go out on October 29.  My apologies for such tardiness.

Jump to Chai Masala recipe

Jump to Kenyan Chai recipe

It’s difficult not to think we are having winter in October.

In the South, winter brings temperatures where the lows are in the 30s and the highs are in the 50s. In the North, apparently it still qualifies as fall.

Strawberry yogurt, to be exact.

This is just one of a hundred daily parenting adventures I get to experience: Chewbacca doing the macarena in yogurt. Strawberry yogurt, to be exact.

But it’s been so chilly in the mornings that I can’t take the kids out, and it’s not sufficiently warm (to my standards) to play outside until about noon, which is lunchtime–followed by naptime. So the kids have spent a lot of time indoors lately, which makes them restless. And that results in episodes of Chewbacca doing the macarena in yogurt.

Adjusting to these new temperatures–especially after enduring record heat (in the triple digits for pretty much the entire summer)–has been a challenge. Needless to say, this has been a drastic temperature change.

And with temperature change comes the sniffles.

As the mother of two toddlers, I know that there isn’t much in the way of over-the-counter medicine available if they get sick.  So, I try to keep the sniffles from getting worse so that they don’t get so sick as to warrant a doctor’s visit to get some prescription expectorant.

Since we don’t have the thick fur of Wookiees to keep us warm (although if you met the men in my father’s side of the family, you may wonder if we had Wookiee ancestry), I have to fall back on traditional recipes and herbalism.  Among at-home remedies, I make lots of chicken soup, put some eucalyptus oil in a cool mist vaporizer, feed them fruits rich in vitamin C, and serve them hot beverages.

I particularly like serving them teas with ginger because ginger is so great for their health in general.  One of the teas we make in this household is a Kenyan version of chai.

It’s worth noting, for those who may be familiar with Indian foods and culture, that Kenyan cuisine (at least for the region my husband is from) is heavily influenced by Indian cuisine.  They are not identical (for instance, the way I learned to make pilau involves beef, which is typically off menu in Indian cooking), and so I find learning to prepare Kenyan food teaches me about several cultures.

The British Empire in 1919.

The British Empire in 1919. (Image via Wikipedia)

In case you needed an explanation of how Kenyans got to cooking Indian food, I’ll give a brief history lesson:   Indians were brought to the various British colonies in Africa in the 1860s as indentured laborers.  While treated horribly by the British and hated by Africans, many eventually worked their way out of servitude and became very prosperous.  This led to much friction between ethnic groups, to say the least (not to gloss over history–but examples include Idi Amin‘s expulsion of Asians from Uganda, apartheid in South Africa, and the treatment of Indian laborers in the British colonies that changed the life of Mohandas Gandhi).  Despite all this, Indian-Africans were able to contribute much in terms of culture, business and industry, and cuisine to the new continent they called home.   And many of the contributions were downright awesome.

But back to the topic.

Tea that grows on my inlaws' tea plantation. They are small shareholders in one of the many growers' co-ops in Kenya.

Kenyan chai is similar to, but still different from, traditional Indian chai.  Indian chai, to begin with, is usually made with Darjeeling tea or some other black tea grown in India.  Kenyan tea is mostly grown in the Rift Valley province.  It has a unique flavor because of the volcanic soil and, because of the country’s equatorial location, tea growers can produce tea year-round, making it the third-largest tea exporter in the world.

And because it was a British colony, tea is now the drink of choice in Kenya.  (This little tidbit has made it easy for my husband to hit it off with Britons and anyone from any of the former Commonwealth states.  If at a social gathering, he simply complains at the lack of “real tea” around such people, and then they make insta-friends, laughing at us Americans and our coffee addictions.)

There are countless ways to prepare chai.  It’s generally black tea, milk, sugar, and spices (usually pre-mixed into masalas–which could be likened to dry rub salsa in Indian food).  The spices one chooses depends on taste and intent (there are recipes for Love Chai and Health Chai, just to name a few).

The spices I put in my chai masala are tailored to my husband’s tastes and are chosen for the medicinal qualities the spices possess.  (DISCLAIMER:  I am not claiming to have any special medical knowledge; what I mention is based on studies in herbalism and alternative medicine.  Consult your doctor before taking any herbal supplements or alternative medicine.)

Chai Masala

You will first need a clean, empty jar into which you will pour the finished product.  I have a terrible habit of saving all my glass spice jars for making various spice blends for this purpose.  If you don’t have any old spice jars, many grocery stores sell empty jars that would be just as suitable.

Ingredients

I find that using a funnel to pour my masala into little spice jars makes life infinitely less messy.

  • 3 tsp cardamom†
  • 1/2 tsp marjoram†
  • 1-1/2 tsp nutmeg†
  • 2 tsp ginger†*
  • 2 tsp cloves
  • 2 tsp cinnamon†
  • 1/2 tsp allspice

*Note:  You can omit the ginger and instead add freshly grated ginger directly to the tea.  Or if you love ginger as much as my family does, you can do both.

† These spices are said to have immune-boosting qualities.

Directions

  1. Thoroughly mix all the spices together in a bowl.
  2. Pour the mixture into a clean, empty spice shaker.

That’s it!  You can double the mixture if you have a larger container and plan to use it up pretty quickly, as the spices may lose some of their freshness over time.

Three types of Cardamom

Three kinds of cardamom. Cardamom and ginger are actually in the same family. In many masalas, redundancy is often the key to great flavor. - Image by FotoosVanRobin


Making Kenyan Chai

To make chai, you will need tea.  You can use loose tea (that is how many Kenyans make it) or tea bags.  If you use loose tea, the conversions would be 1 teaspoon of loose tea to 1 tea bag.  You would then need to strain the tea before serving.

In reality, you can use any black tea when making chai.  We try to use Kenyan tea whenever we can.  My husband’s preferred brands are Ketepa (which also markets under the Safari brand) and Kericho Gold (which only buys from organic growers); either of these can be purchased online through various merchants, but it can sometimes be rather costly.  Darjeeling teas and English breakfast teas are more affordable and easier to find in your average grocery store and will do just as well.

Ingredients

  • 4 tea bags
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp chai masala

Directions

  1. Pour water and milk into medium saucepan.
  2. Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat to low.
  3. Add tea bags, masala, and sugar.
  4. Heat for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat.  Remove tea bags.  Serve.

Makes approximately 3 cups of tea.

Kenyan chai goes great with toast, peda, or pumpkin bread.

Kenyan chai with peda. It goes quickly in our house.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: All Saints Day, Samhain, and the Amazing Pumpkin « Mommysaurus Wrecks
  2. Trackback: Home Remedies Aren’t Always Hokem « Mommysaurus Wrecks

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