Sunday, November 25, 2007

500 Mile Chai

This Thanksgiving we had family visiting from the East coast, so we hosted a small Thanksgiving party. I volunteered to make dessert---a delicious mango pie. I started putting the pie together on Wednesday night and proceeded to mess it up...:(. Suffice it to say that it had something to do with gelatin not dissolving properly and becoming lumpy, to the point where Mala absolutely refused to serve the resulting "pies" at Thanksgiving!

So it was that I was prowling the aisles of Andronico's on Thursday morning looking for an appropriate Thanksgiving dessert. And this is where I encountered 500 Mile Chai from The Tao of Tea.

It is a masala chai---a blend of organic black tea with ginger, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon. As to the origins of the name, it:

... originates from the many late night truck drivers stopping at small Chai stands 'Dhabas' on the highway and asking for really strong, sweet Chai to help them drive long distances (... another 500 miles).

But what really clinched it for me was the description of the choice of leaf:

The grade of tea commonly used for Chai is known as 'Cut, Tear and Curl (CTC)', representing a heavily rolled leaf pellet with very low moisture content. It is ideal for boiling...

Growing up I remember buying CTC tea for my mother, without any real understanding of what CTC was! So I had to buy this tea. We served it after dinner, and it was delicious!


Raj Aji said...

It is ironic that the term 500 Mile Chai, which is used to describe the humble, overboiled, oversweetened Rs. 5 tea sold at roadside stalls to weary truckers is being used to peddle what is probably an $8 box of tea at a high end grocery store in Palo Alto.
I think CTC is made from the lowest grade of tea. The whole leaves command the highest price and the broken pieces are used to make CTC, a tea which is affordably priced for the masses. I guess marketing can make anything sound exotic.
I am glad you are drinking organic tea. After our last visit to a tea plantation (in the high altitudes of the blue Nilgiri Mountains around the charming old English hill resort of Ootacamund- to make it sound exotic), Sujata and I decided that if there is one thing that we must buy organic, it is tea. Typically, they use a lot of pesticides on the tea bushes and once plucked, the tea leaves are merely dried, graded and packed for consumption. They use pesticides on coffee as well, but at least the coffee beans are covered with husk.

AV said...

Amazing coincidence, we were at Harry & David's last weekend and saw multiple "Indian Chais", maybe this was one of them. Diana of course refused to buy it since she makes her own blend of masala chai - some "secret" recipe given to her by my cousin's husband. (I think it is a mix of Brooke Bond Red Label & Black Label + cinnamon sticks + some cloves etc).

Oh well - as long as she wants to make it, I don't care.

On a complete tangent, latest crossword puzzle that Naru and I created has "masala chai" as an answer.


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