Let There Be Chai

A few weeks ago my good friend M taught me how to make authentic Chai. M is Pakistani, and in Pakistan tea is just called Chai. Not Chai Tea. Not Chai Tea Latte.

Traditionally, Chai is black tea with milk, so by definition chai is a chai latte.

I was introduced to chai tea lattes by my good friend Jess at the Naked Lounge Coffee House on Q Street in my hometown.

Throughout college and afterwards, Jess and I kept in touch at coffee shops. She was always introducing me to new ones in Sacramento. The first summer we met up, she ordered a chai tea latte and it came in a tall glass, was slightly off-white in color, and had foam on top. Not too long after that, I started ordering chai tea lattes as my go to drink at cafes. Since I don’t drink coffee, chai tea lattes quickly became my favorite drink.

Unfortunately most cafes in Korea don’t even offer chai, and of those that do only some offer soy milk. I’ve been avoiding milk for the last year, so nowadays I can only order chai tea lattes at coffee shops that also have soy milk.

Although Korea has an abundance of coffee shops, it’s still behind on the trend of offering soy milk as an option. I’ve memorized exactly which coffee shop chains offer soy milk– Starbucks (always), Twosome Place (usually), Ediya (sometimes), the local Blues Cafe, and everything else (probably not).

As a result, these days I don’t get to enjoy my Chai tea everywhere. Instead, I’ve started to make homemade “chai tea lattes.”  However, there was always something lacking from my “chai tea lattes in a cup.” It turns out, the secret to authentic chai is the pot. You gotta make it in a pot to really simmer all the spices.

Jess passed away a few years ago from a very rare form of cancer. I remember clearly one of her Facebook posts near the end which read: “See you on the other side.” Which clearly is a testament to her positive personality and her way with words. She was an excellent writer as well as photographer, so she always had something witty or profound to say.

I am inspired every day to pursue my own dream of being a photographer to the very end, just as she did. And I hope that whenever the end does come, she’ll have found the best coffee shop for us to meet up at on the other side. And let there be Chai.

How to make dairy free Chai (For one person):

  1. Boil a little less than 1/2 cup water in a pot.
  2. Add two bags of chai tea. (This is because store bought bags are usually weak).
  3. Let simmer until the color is just right. The color should be a dark brown with a slight reddish tint.  (This is the tricky part. When I asked M how long I should let it simmer,  she said, “I don’t know, you have to check the color.”)
  4. Add honey (or sugar) to taste. Or omit if on a sugar fast.
  5. Add 1/2 cup soy milk.
  6. Let simmer a little bit more.
  7. Pour into your cup and enjoy!
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