Jaggery (noun)– a non-centrifugal cane sugar without separation of molasses or crystals

Back in September, I visited a good friend Sarah in Oakland. The first things she offered me when I arrived were food and chai. Technically speaking, it was masala chai “mixed-spice tea” since chai only means tea. In similar fashion, “caffe latte” is almost always shortened in English to “latte”, which only means milk in Italian. Confusingly, chai latte is the combination of spices and steamed milk.

Some food are as different as night and day when purchased at a restaurant versus made at home; chai belongs in this category. A 16-oz chai latte from Starbucks contains 42 grams of sugar (10.5 teaspoons) and is, not surprisingly, cloyingly sweet. It seemed intimidating to make chai at home, but Sarah’s housemate told me that every Indian family has their own recipe and their favorite blend of spices. Creating my own unique version became a good excuse for messing up. Here are a list of ingredients to use, add, omit, and experiment with!

Liquids: Milk, water

Tea: Loose black tea leaves

Spices: Ginger, green cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, black peppercorn, star anise, nutmeg, coriander seeds, and fennel seeds

Sweetener: Jaggery, brown sugar, molasses, honey, maple syrup…etc.

Sarah’s secret to great chai is grated fresh ginger, which gives the beverage a spicy kick. Come to think of it, she is just like her variety of chai- warm (and hot), bold, and strong.

The chai master with a container of jaggery
Lake Merritt in Oakland



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