All Things Kenyan

Chai Recipe

Did you know that tea is one of Kenya’s main exports? In fact, Kenya exports more tea than Sri Lanka, India, and China!

Chai is Swahili for tea and also is used in reference to a bribe. Tea time in Kenya is a British colonial holdover. Time for tea is worked in to the school schedule. Kenyan culture is interesting because, like the United States, it tends to be an embracing of many different cultures. Tea time is borrowed from the British, but the style of tea is borrowed from India. It’s called ‘chai’. Chai is tea with milk and sugar in Kenya. Asian chai also has spices like cinnamon, cardamom, or ginger in it. Other names for chai are spiced tea, spiced milk tea, milk tea, or even tea latte.

Chai is served at breakfast, morning break, after lunch, afternoon tea, after dinner. It is the beverage choice of Kenya it would seem.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to one of my student’s homes. Not only was there a ton of food that I was supposed to eat, but the chai flowed and flowed. The mug I was given to drink from was the size of a small stein holding approximately two times the chai of a regular mug. So as not to appear rude I drank around six of these mugs of chai. Good thing I like chai that was the equivalent of 12 regular sized mugs and boy did I have to pee later on!

How do you make chai? Here’s the recipe I use:

Heat together in a 3 to 4 quart saucepan:
1 cup water
1 1/2 tsp tea leaves (or 1 tea bag)

Boil 10 minutes. Add:
1 cup milk

Heating near boiling. Add to taste:
2 to 4 teaspoons sugar

Now, according to a Kenyan friend of mine if you are using a tea cup that’s two teaspoons of sugar. If it’s a mug then use 5 teaspoons of sugar. Add sugar to your taste. If you go by what my friend says you’ll end up with cavities! I came home from Kenya with two cavities myself. I’ve also read recommendations to prepare the chai two hours in advance of serving. You can use loose tea if you wish. Be sure to strain this tea before you drink it. Generally, I found that in Kenya loose tea leaves were used. Sometimes the tea was strained and put into a teapot for serving and other times it was strained as each cup was poured.

If you are interested in making spiced or Indian (Asian) chai be sure to boil the spices you want to add with the tea. If you add them in at the last minute with the sugar you won’t get the full and true taste of the spices.