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Twelve by Three Hundred - April


A simple clay cup is on my dining table. This cup keeps fascinating me—I am currently writing poetry about it— I got it from a street vendor coming back from Chand Baori, which is the famous stepwell in the village of Abhaneri near Jaipur in India. I love chai tea. I had tasted good chai in many places— Yokohama, Bruges, and San Francisco… But this chai tea in the clay cup was the best of all. Maybe because an unusual location helped my taste buds— I had a tea time in the middle of nowhere in mustard fields and there was nothing, really nothing around the local chai shop on the highway. 

In the shop, the tea maker boiled water in a big copper pot. He put in masala spices— his nails were stained brown with them, which I assumed were the spice crumbs— and powder milk from a stainless box with a lot of sugar. I did not know at the moment but when the British Empire colonized India, high quality tea leaves were all exported to Europe. Therefore, there was only cheap tea available in India. The locals could not enjoy their simple tea flavor, so they added masala and sugar to help their recipes every two hours or so.

My new passion is making masala tea. So far I tried with my own tea flavors— English breakfast, Assam, Earl Gray— and I enjoyed them all. I like to use reasonable tea bags on sale at a supermarket following an Indian tradition. Even I can enjoy making it at my work office— I heat a cup of water until it boils in the microwave, and I add spice (any favorite spices like in the masala package, or cinnamon) with milk and sugar. I am obsessed with asking, “Would you like to try masala chai?”

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