Tea time and I mean time to have tea. I say that because I noticed that people in the part of the world where I am call lunch or dinner time as tea. I found it quite strange at first but now am quite used to it. For me tea time is more like what I was used to in India, somewhere in the mid-afternoon. I remember trying to wait for the tea to be delivered to the shop floor and would stop the trolley on the way and grab some cups of tea. I did not quite like the tea from the dispenser and hence had to hijack the trolley! Back in school days we used to come home and mom would make tea for us and we would usually dunk biscuits in it and enjoy. I always remember enjoying a cup of tea! But there is more to the Indian tea than just the tea leaves. Interestingly tea was grown as a commercial crop in India during the British period. British promoted tea plantation mainly to compete with China who were then the biggest tea exporters. Anyway, the point is that in India the tea aka chai gets a unique twist with another popular category of cash crop – spices. When it comes to blending spices with the tea, imagination has no limits. I would think that the ideal combination will be unique to each and every person but I thought it is well worth suggesting some options. This could be particularly interesting for those who do not like herbal tea as this would be normal tea with a twist.

Ginger tea – this is very good to relieve congestion and personally I find it quite refreshing. Ginger lends a bit of a kick to the tea. I would take about an inch long piece of peeled ginger and just crush it and boil in about a cup of water until it changes colour. Then use this water to make tea, either using a bag or tea dust of your choice.

Elaichi (Cardamom) Tea – Elaichi is suppose to be used to treat infections of the teeth and gum, congestion of the lungs and also digestive disorders. Crush two to three pods and boil in a cup of water and use this water to make your tea using tea bag or tea dust.

Cinnamon Tea – this spice is suppose to contain antioxidants and is also said to help fight cold and digestive troubles. Again put about an inch long piece in water and boil until nice aroma comes out. Use this water to make your tea using a bag or tea dust.

Cloves Tea – cloves are said to have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiseptic properties. In addition to help overcome digestive disorders, it helps relive vomiting and diarrhoea. Take about 2-3 cloves and gently crush it. Boil it in a cup of water and use this water to make your tea.

Masala Tea – Outside India, the word chai usually refers to masala tea. It is usually a combination of all other spices and some peppercorn. I would use some ginger water, two cardamom pods, small piece of cinnamon and a clove and couple of pinches of black pepper powder. I would add about a teaspoon of tea dust and bring to boil. Strain the liquid and add milk. You could increase or decrease or skip some of these spices to come up with what suits you best.

Although I would usually add milk after straining the decoction, adding the milk earlier and allowing the tea-water-milk-spice mixture to boil for a while lends better taste. I use sugar as the sweetner but I believe some use honey.

Some people shy away from tea and coffee because of caffeine or fear of getting addicted to it. In my opinion, everything in moderation is good. Tea has some beneficial antioxidants which some say could help reduce cancer. The caffeine in tea is generally not as high as in coffee. Combined with these spices, it is quite refreshing and beneficial to our body. Having said that, try not to use a lot of sugar in the tea and also avoid it soon after a meal. These beverages could interfere with digestion and inhibit the body from absorbing essential nutrients. For these reasons, I would usually stick to a mid afternoon cup of tea so my lunch would be well down the digestive tract. Enjoy your cuppa!