Chiya’ is the Nepali word for tea. It comes from ‘cha’, the Chinese word for the drink. Today, in the United States the Hindi word ‘Chai’ has become a general term for spiced milk tea that is sweetened. The proper Nepali term for this spiced tea is masala chiya, masala meaning any spice blend.

Chiya is a beverage more popular in South Asia than coffee. In Nepal, chiya is available from street vendors. These little tea stall keepers carry pots of chiya and serve it in cups that are either disposable or need to be returned. It is also a family tradition in Nepal to welcome your guests with a cup of chiya.

Each family has their own recipe and preparation method but the most common is milk tea or the Nepali masala chiya. Visitors have fallen in love with this magical drink.

Ingredients and methods for preparing chiya vary with each family — there is no wrong way to prepare this evergreen and all season beverage. The most commonly used ingredients include:

Cardamom — a wonderfully fragrant spice that comes in two varieties: green and black. Green cardamom is what you want for chiya. To attain the full flavour of cardamom you should heat it in a hot pan, stirring constantly until the aroma strengthens.

Cinnamon — A common spice but usually used in ground form. Cinnamon should be used in chunk or stick form for chiya. Sticks should be crushed before use.

Cloves — Cloves are another commonly used spice but only whole cloves should be used for chiya. Only one or two cloves are enough to infuse a large pot of chiya.

Pepper — Pepper is available in black, white and green varieties. Whole peppercorns should always be purchased for cooking and for making chiya. Simply grind when needed.

Ginger — Ginger is a root that should be purchased fresh. Ginger has a pungent, almost citrus flavour with warming effects.

Fennel — Sometimes candy coated and used as a digestive aid and breath freshener, fennel is often served after meals in South Asian countries.

Fennel chiyas do not have the warmth and fire that cinnamon or cloves contribute to the brew. The fennel seeds can be crushed or used whole and should be added at the last minute.

Now choose your tea. There are many brewing options with chiya. Generally you start by brewing your spices and sugar to pull as much flavour as possible.

This normally takes about six minutes. People who like a very strong tea flavour add their tea right away with their spices. But don’t do this with Green tea.

After steeping your spices, add milk and bring to almost boiling. Add tea and turn off the heat. Allow the mixture to infuse for three to five minutes. Strain and serve in pre-warmed cups.

Do not be afraid to garnish your chiya with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa or cinnamon. You can also chill your prepared chiya and blend it with ice cream to make a delicious cold chiya drink.

Masala chiya

This warming beverage is easy to prepare by steeping spices in hot water and milk before adding black tea. To make it richer, add more milk and sugar to taste.

Serves: 4

Ingredients

• 4 whole cloves

• 2 cardamom pods

• 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces

• 3 cups water

• 1/4 teaspoon ground

ginger

• 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• 1/2 cup milk

• 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

• 2 tablespoons Black tea

Direction: In a mortar, crush the cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon. Transfer the crushed spices to a small saucepan, add the water, ginger and pepper and bring to a boil.

Remove the pan from the heat, cover and let steep for five minutes. Add the milk and sugar to the pan and bring to a boil.

Remove from the heat and add the tea. Cover and let steep for three minutes. Stir the chiya, strain it into a warmed teapot or directly into teacups.