This tea is highly addictive and NO it has nothing to with “chars”.
The word “charsi” has been associated with many meat dishes and even chai/tea for different reasons, could be a tribal thing or a method of preparation or may suggest a special ingredient that enhance the flavor. To clarify the word “chars” to those who aren’t familiar with Urdu language, it means drug like hashish or marijuana (All illegal in Pakistan) and “charsi” is the drug addict of course. But when it comes to food, it mostly suggests that that particular dish/beverage is of Khber Pakhtoon Khwa origin. Reason I am defining the word is because I get crazy questions about the ingredients when a recipe has the word charsi in it’s title. This tea is my latest obsession but since it is quite rich and heavy. I would recommend a reduced serving volume.
There is doodh patti, there is karak chai, there is masala chai, there is ilachi (green cardamom) chai to name few black tea variations which are all very popular nationally specially the ones served at dhabas and on Highways. Charsi Chai is also a favorite from “driver hotel” and later became a cool addition to tourist’s spot in the Northern areas of Pakistan. This tea is exceptionally rich with smooth and earthy taste and refreshing aroma. It is served with sliced almonds as garnish which is quite unique for a black tea variety but this simple addition surely adds a new twist to this hot beverage.
Here is what you need to make this tea:
- Time and Patience. Yes. If you don’t have time or you need a cup of tea quickly or you are in a rush please don’t try this tea then because this one needs your undivided attention and care! While a regular cup of tea can be prepared well under five minutes, this one would require at least twenty to twenty five minutes. Don’t rush the process. Invest a little (more) time and you will be rewarded!
- Pure and Fresh Milk. For best results we need best quality ingredients and I have been saying this like a broken record for so long now. We need pure and fresh milk for this tea. Period. If there is added water in the milk, it would simply spoil the whole process and tea won’t taste the way it should. Milk is boiled for a prolonged period of time hence it reduces significantly which means we need around 400-450 ml of milk for a 200-250 ml serving. In an extreme case where there is no fresh milk but this tea craving is a bit out of control, tetra packed milk can be used but add some water to it while cooking otherwise such processed milk taste a little salty after being cooked for so long.
- Good quality Tea. Substandard tea leaves will be a waste of time and ingredients. Use best quality tea leaves and NOT teabags. This tea depends on the taste and color of tea leaves. In case there are only tea bags available, tear the bag and add only tea to the milk. You might need to tear an extra teabag for strong flavor that is required.
- Jaggery/Gur. For most of tea vendors, gur/jaggery is the secret ingredient behind the exceptional taste of this particular tea. Good quality plain gur is what you need here. Adding sweeteners brings down the boiling point of milk and keeps it hot for longer. No gur? Hmm! That’s a tricky one but shakr (raw sugar) or brown sugar might work to some extent.
- “Beating” the Tea. They call it “phaintna” in Urdu which is totally different than using a whisk or electric beater. What these tea vendors do is that they use a ladle (or doi in Urdu), give it a dip in the cooking tea, fill it with tea, bring the ladle up and pour the tea back into the cooking pot. Main reason for doing this is to keep the cooking tea stirred otherwise a layer of deep brown film would appear on the surface. This pouring of tea is also a kind of “live advertisement”, you know. It attracts customers with familiar sound and visual.
Even though the process seems lengthier than doodh patti or regular mix chai, it is not complicated at all. It doesn’t require special equipment or technique or ingredients. First we bring milk to a gentle boil, add tea leaves and let it cook over simmer. After first boil, the flame should be at simmer till serving. When tea releases color, add sweeteners; gur and sugar in this case along with green cardamom. Keep cooking, while “beating” the tea as shown and described. I am not a fan of cardamom flavor in black tea so I usually skip it but commercially it is always added. Green cardamom also gives a deeper color to the tea. Remember! This longer cooking time is essential for a richer taste and flavor and this “beating” is what keeps the consistency smooth without fat deposits and precipitates.
A highly addictive chai/tea with brilliant earthy taste and soothing aroma.
- 800 ml whole milk, preferably fresh
- 2½ tsp tea leaves (no teabags please!)
- 1½ tsp jaggery/gurr, plain (see notes)
- ½-¾ tsp sugar (see notes)
- 1 pod green cardamom, crushed (see notes)
- crushed almonds, for garnish
Heat milk in a non reactive sauce pan over medium flame.
When milk comes to a gentle boil, reduce heat to low.
Add in tea leaves. Let tea release it's color for about 2-3 minutes.
Bring the flame lower to simmer and add in jaggery/gur and sugar. Stir for a minute or two till jaggery/gur dissolves.
Using a ladle, keep mixing the boiling tea. Fill ladle with boiling tea, raise the ladle up and pour the tea back into the sauce pan. Keep "beating" the tea like this for about 10 minutes.
Add crushed green cardamom. Keep "beating" the tea for another 5-7 minutes.
When desired color is achieved, pour tea into serving mugs/cups.
Garnish with sliced almonds and serve immediately.
- Feel free to add more or less gur or sugar as per taste but you need to add some to the cooking tea. You can serve it with sugar if you like ultra sweetened tea.
- Green cardamom can be optional. If you are not a fan of it's flavor and aroma in your regular tea, feel free to skip it.