I have a new love in my life. We met a couple of weeks ago when I found myself in crisis.
I had just come in from a late night walk with Chieftain, chilled and wanting nothing more than a hot cup of tea. I like my tea basic – orange pekoe or English breakfast tea, dark and robust with a generous measure of milk. I rubbed my hands together to warm them before I filled the kettle and placed it on the stove, then waited for the siren song of the whistle. After warming my white china elephant pot with hot water, just the way my granny taught me to do, I reached for the tin of tea bags, breathing in the soothing aroma of orange pekoe as I lifted the lid. Inside, there was nothing but a deep, dark hole. The tin was empty. I had a momentary jolt of alarm. Ah, but I was certain there was a new box, still in its cellophane wrapper in the pantry. I opened the pantry door and turned on the single bulb light fixture which shines directly on the pantry shelves. There, it should be right – oh, no. It wasn’t there. I scanned the shelves. No white box with orange trim and green lettering and the smiling face of King Cole. A miscalculation had resulted in a dearth of that life-giving substance. What was I to do? I was desperate. I considered the alternatives – ginger-lemon tea, green mint tea, camomille, all of them worthy but not what I needed at that moment.
Then I remembered. There was a small box of chai, an item from a gift basket I had won a few months ago. There it languished, lonely and forgotten beside the assorted herbal concoctions I keep for guests who eschew caffeine. I took it down and read the ingredients. Number one on the list was organic black tea. Well, that was an auspicious start. Next came the spices: ginger and cinnamon – two of my favourites. Cardamom and cloves – hmm, good in mulled wine certainly. Star of anise – exotic. Black pepper – what? Really? Oh well, at least it was black tea. If I made it hot, strong, and milky it might just meet my needs.
So I brought the kettle to a boil again and made a pot of chai. At the first sip I knew I was a changed woman. Chai, you have stolen my heart. Your blend of black tea and spices warms me from the inside out right down to my toes. And the mixture of flavours carries me to far-off street markets. I’m sorry King Cole, I have fallen in love with another.