With the season chilled, the amount of tea that is drunk during the hours is humongous. I was hearing the number of thousands of cups of chai karak sold on a daily basis during the winter months in the UAE on radio and was literally shell shocked! You will see people who park a few feet away from the cafeteria, roll down their window, and gesture their index finger upwards to the staff watching out. You will then see him quickly running in and coming out with one cup of chai in a covered plastic tray and walking towards the car, so that the driver can enjoy his hot cup. We are pampered with instant services here, you see? 🙂
There are people who will buy in flasks, buy bigger cups (read me and D!) and ask for “without” (no sugar!). The atmosphere around a good tea selling shop is electric and so much fun to watch! Some sit in their cars and enjoy tea silently while scrolling through their phones. Some move out of their cars, huddle around out and chat over the cups. Some just lean onto their (or somebody else’s 😉 ) car, stare out on the sky and sip in deep thought… I don’t think my words are good enough to explain the view outside a tea shop here in the UAE… 🙂 I just found this very interesting article regarding the love for karak in this country…
This is my attempt at recreating the flavors of the Chai Karak that the Emiratis love a lot. In fact, it is quite famous across the GCC! Usually most of the restaurants would give you a chai with evaporated milk beaten into it, but in this recipe, you basically cook into it. You can replace it with full fat milk, but I totally loved the flavor of the evaporated milk and it really hit all the correct nodes of the chai that you get in paper cups. You can also make it with just cardamom flavor, but the dimension that the little saffron gives is really amazing. Adapted the recipe from here…
Chai Karak ~ Emirati Milk Tea
- 1 1/2 cups water
- A fat pinch cardamom powder/ 3 crushed cardamoms
- 3-4 strands of saffron crushed
- 2 tsp tea powder
- 170 ml can evaporated milk
- Sugar to taste
- Add the water, cardamom and saffron into a saucepan. Bring to heat.
- As it starts becoming hot, add the tea powder and bring it to boil. Boil till it darkens.
- Pour in the evaporated milk and bring it to a rolling boil. Simmer till the desired color is reached.
- Strain into cups, sweeten with sugar and enjoy!
If you love tea with milk in it, here are some interesting varieties to try:
And finally, my style of making chai 😉