Chai = Love

Chai = Love

Chai (tea) was a staple growing up in our Indian household.  We had chai when a neighbor stopped by to say hi.  When I needed a break from studying or work, the answer was chai.  Experiencing a three o’clock energy dip? …must be time for chai.  After dinner… you got it – chai-time.  I don’t recall my parents or their friends ever saying it was too late for chai or that they had had enough chai that day. Anytime was chai-time.

Almost every morning for 48 years, my dad has made bed tea for my mom and any of us lucky enough to be home.  I would awaken to the gentle pounding of my father using the mortar and pestle to crush fresh pods of cardamom.  I knew what that sound meant.  The time was 7:15am and in 5 minutes the smell of fresh grated ginger, crushed cardamom and the scent of orange pekoe tea would find it’s way into my room.  Once the tea was dark brown, dad would add milk to make it a perfect caramel color.  His sweet tooth had him a little heavy-handed on the sugar (not a problem for me).   And in 10 minutes steaming hot chai would be on my nightstand.  A hot cup of tea at my bedside made emerging from my world of dreaming into my world of doing a little bit easier.

On weekends or holidays, we would gather in the sunroom, where my mom somehow magically kept orchids blooming year-round in Buffalo, NY.  We would gather in our PJ’s to discuss who fell asleep before the end of the movie (usually me), or what we dreamt about, or what we hoped to create together in the upcoming day.

It was only when I left home that I realized how much I missed dad’s chai.  Making my own chai tastes good, but dad waking me up with chai, now that’s love.  There’s something so nurturing and connecting about my experience with tea.  I realize the importance of these touchstones in my busy life, to ground me and bring me back to what’s most meaningful.  Now that I live 3000 miles away from my family, I’ve noticed that when I’m homesick, I make chai for myself & to share with others.  For me the equation is simple:  Chai = Love.

In case you’re interested here’s…

Dad’s Official Chai Recipe
2.5 cups water
1 cup 2% milk  (soy or almond milk)
1/4” grated fresh ginger
4 pods of cardamom
1 tea bag (he swears by Orange Pekoe Tetley tea)
3 tspn. sugar

You’ll also need:
Mortar & pestle
Small strainer for tea cup
Small grater
2 of your favorite coffee mugs

Bring water, fresh grated ginger, crushed cardamom seeds to a boil.  Add one tea bag and let it become dark brown.  Then add milk until the tea is a caramel color.  Put two mugs in the sink and add 1 1/2 tspn sugar at bottom of cup.  Put the cup strainer on the empty cup & pour chai until full.  Stir & serve.

TalkRx Prescription

  1. Bring to mind something in your life that is your own personal touchstone.
  2. What makes you feel connected and loved?
  3. Let that memory or that image inspire you.

Please share with me what you come up with!

To rituals that connect us to one another,

Doctor Neha logo


8 Responses

  1. Love it! Love Chai .. Love you!!!
    Your Dad’s Chai rocks, even with 2% 😉
    The Mortar and pestle – soothing morning alarm here is at 6:15, decade and a half … and going. Must equal Love … Thanks for defining!

    Ah, the aromatic morning tea by father at bedside – gentle calming wake-up call, and fingers slow dancing the sleepy head’s hair; sure made it harder to leave bed for school especially having that cozy lap enveloping – talk about finding it impossible to break away from the princess dreamland … Has to be LOVE!

    Oh, how about each fresh Roti off-the-stove to the table every evening?!!!! Roti = Love, Dr. Sangwan?!!!
    Thank you for your heart-warming blog. keep them coming! 😀

  2. Chai does equal love. Growing up in India chai has been a big part of my life too. For the most part I was a tomboy type of girl growing up with all boys as siblings and cousins but I was my grandfather’s princess. My way of showing love to him was making chai for him. As terrible of chai as I made he always had it with a smile on his face. Now that is what I call love!!!

  3. For me, it is the aroma of fresh baked bread (no longer part of my eating plan). That yeasty aroma takes me back to my grandmother’s kitchen where she would make it almost daily. She would also churn butter from the cream she got from the neighbor’s cows. Talk about nurturing! I have her old recipe card (although I haven’t made it in a years) – I miss the aroma coming from my kitchen. However, food isn’t love – the feelings of warmth and family are what matters.

    1. So true Tammi! It’s love. It’s family. It’s memories. It’s the fundamental desire to feel connection & belonging ❤️

      1. Ok let’s be honest, the thought of gluten & dairy melting in my mouth is making my mouth water….not on my food plan anymore either!!!

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