While walking through the souks, my husband and I walked by a teashop that looked like it was right out of India. Hamad Khalfan Al Dalil’s restaurant was a small one that could only hold a half dozen customers. Out front were bowls full of snacks – samosas, vadas and bhajias – which I could not resist. We ordered two cups of masala chai (spiced tea). This was the best spiced tea we have ever tasted! It was difficult to carry my camera bag and balance the snacks and hot tea in my two hands but I managed. After the first cup, we ordered another round of tea and more snacks. After this treat, I was ready for more sights and shopping…


We stopped at Hamad Khalfan Al Dalil's shop for tea and snacks.

We stopped at Hamad Khalfan Al Dalil’s shop for tea and snacks.


The next day we flew to Goa. Next, I will share my experiences in this seaside paradise.


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I just read an article in the paper that said that Starbucks plans on opening 50 coffee outlets in India by the end of 2012. I knew that coffee houses were becoming popular there largely due to the rising level of disposable income of India’s young professional set and the broad reach of the internet but this is huge! Can you imagine the people of the Indian subcontinent becoming Starbucks addicts?


This will be a joint venture between Starbucks and Tata Global Beverages. Both companies bring many strengths to this partnership. Starbucks with its marketing wizardry; Tata with its market and local knowledge as well as the roasted local coffee beans to be provided by Tata Coffee Ltd. I think I should buy stock in both companies now as I expect the profits will go through the roof. The name of the stores will be called Tata Starbucks Coffee: A Tata Alliance.


The interesting thing about this move is that most north Indians drink tea, not coffee. In south India, people have been drinking rich filter coffee in addition to tea for years. Even though Starbucks will bring its Tazo tea line to the partnership in the shops with its Awake tea (unidentified tea blend from Sri Lanka, Kenya as well as India), I don’t think they will be successful in attracting the Indian tea drinkers who are very sophisticated in their tastes for English Breakfast and Darjeeling tea which are actually grown in India. See my post, A Voyage with Indian Tea, that focuses on tea grown in India.


With the first store targeted to open in September, I will keep my eyes peeled to see how successful this venture turns out to be.  Stay tuned…





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“Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage.”  ~Catherine Douzel


With spring trying to poke its head out from under winter, I am dedicating this installment to my favorite cold weather drink. I drink it every afternoon especially late in the day as the temperature seems to fall as evening comes. This wonderful yet simple drink seems to warm me up all the way to my toes.


Let the voyage to India begin…


The word “tea” is synonymous with “India” since it is the largest producer of tea in the world today, growing a quarter of the world’s tea. (China is second.) India has been growing tea for more than 2500 years. The Ramayana, the ancient Hindu story about the adventures of the Hindu deity, Rama, mentioned that tea was consumed during those times, approximately 500 years BC.


Assam tea from India is ready to be added to the pot for a fresh cup of tea.

Assam tea from India is ready to be added to the pot for a fresh cup of tea.

Tea requires a hot and humid tropical climate with acidic soil to grow. In India it grows abundantly on the hills in north and east side of the country. Traditionally, tea leaves were picked by hand but machines pick the bulk of the tea today. The method of harvesting the leaves today is based on the terrain and the type of leaves grown. For centuries it was grown and consumed locally. With the arrival of the British East India Company in the 1820s, large areas of land were converted to tea plantations to supply tea to the rest of the world. More than two thirds of the tea that is grown in India today is still consumed within its borders.

India is known for its black tea but, keeping with current trends, now grows green, white and oolong teas due to increased popularity and heath benefits. India is now the second largest producer of green tea.
Many of the most popular varieties of Indian tea are grown in India. Assam, Darjeeling and Niligri are the most popular.


Assam is the name of the largest and most beautiful tea-growing region in the world, located on high on a plateau in the north of India along the Brahmaputra River in the state by the same name. It is also the name of the tea that is grown there. The tea from this area has a bold, strong flavor so it is traditionally served in the morning. English Breakfast Tea, made popular by Queen Victoria in the 19th Century, is a popular blend with a large percentage of Assam tea.


Darjeeling is one of the most popular teas in the world. It is grown in northeast India in the state of West Bengal along the Himalayas. The tea that is grown here has a delicate flavor so ‘Champagne of teas’, it is never blended with other teas because it would loose its special flavor. Some of the best Darjeeling tea is grown right around the town by the same name. My husband’s favorite is Orange Pekoe that is a variety of Darjeeling Tea.
In the southwest corner of India, the states of Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu grow tea along the Niligri Mountains, translated as the Blue Mountains due to the fog and clouds that surround the mountains that give them a blue cast. This tea is called Niligri tea. With its mild and clean flavor, it is often blended with other teas.
Other regions in India grow tea as well but do not have the level of production or popularity. These are:
  • Terai and Dooars along the Himalayas south of Darjeeling,
  • the Cachar district in the state of Assam in north India,
  • Dehradun in the state of Uttarakhand in north India,
  • Manipur a state in northeast India,
  • Kangra on the western Himalayas, and
  • Travancore, a region at the southern tip of the state of Kerala.

I hope you enjoyed our voyage around India to find the perfect cup of tea. Next year I plan to travel to some new parts of India and visit a tea plantation first hand.

Let me know your favorite!

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Masala Chai spices-1- ed - sm

Spices that I use in my Masala Chai.

Now that the worst of the summer heat is behind us, I have been drinking more hot tea.  At home, my family drinks black Indian tea with milk and sugar.  My father-in-law makes the best tea in the family.  When visiting his home, I hint (ok, not very subtly) that a cup of tea would be a good thing to have.  He is very happy to oblige with a cup of his delicious tea.

I have seen the spiced tea drinks that are sold in grocery stores and tea houses.  I have been intrigued by these drinks as they call Chai Tea. Chai is the Hindi word for Tea and it originated in China with the word Cha. So these stores are selling Tea Tea.  Hummm. 

These stores are really selling Masala Chai, spices blended with Indian tea.  Since I have plenty of black tea leaves in my pantry, I decided to make my own. 

The most important decision is the type of tea leaves to use.  If you are drinking tea in the morning, use English Breakfast tea because the flavor is stronger and richer.  If you have it in the afternoon, you should select Darjeeling tea because it is lighter. 

The most traditional spices used in Masala Chai are cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and black pepper.  Additional spices are used in some versions and include: coriander, allspice, nutmeg, star anise, fennel and vanilla bean.  The amounts used of each vary based on personal preferences.  A simple two step process is all that is required to make this delicious drink: steep the spices, then steep the tea leaves.  My version of the recipe follows:

Masala Chai Recipe

3 cups water
2 cloves
2 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces
1/4 inch fresh ginger, cut into pieces
1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
2 heaping tablespoons Black tea

Pour the water into a saucepan and put it on the stove to boil. With the side of a knife blade, smash the cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. Roughly chop the ginger.  Add these items along with the pepper to the pan. When the water starts to boil, turn off the heat so the flavors of the spices can come out.  Let it steep for 5 minutes. Turn on the heat again; stir in the milk and sugar. Carefully bring to a boil then turn off the heat.  Add the tea leaves. Stirring occasionally, let the tea steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Pour through a strainer to remove the spices.  Add more milk or sugar to taste. Makes about 3 cups.


Masala Chai

A cup of hot Masala Chai.

I use milk instead of half and half in the traditional Indian style.  I also use turbinado sugar which is only partially refined.  Of course, use any sweetener you prefer.

Try this recipe and then experiment with different combinations and amounts of the spices.



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