I have a little ritual that I fall back on every now and then. I try to recreate the chai that I drank in India so many years ago. I peel the ginger, add the tea, black peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, a few cloves and a spoon of sugar to a pot filled with part water and part cream. I let it boil and I strain it, wishing that I had a little clay pot to drink it from and to shatter to the ground when I finish. Sometimes I try those pouring tricks, where you dump it from one cup to another and back again, with arms spread wide. That is never a good idea.
There was something very significant to me about chai in India. It told a story about a culture and about all of the different ways of being in the world. The chai wallahs in India defined something for me. Riding on the train through that gigantic expanse of land in the early mornings, with the chai wallahs beckoning in a low voice “Chaaiiiiiii chaaaiiiiii chaaaiiiiii.” There was something so surreal and important about that sound. Something both beautiful and brutal. And it is something within that feeling that it invoked that led me here, about to throw packs on the backs of my children to drag them out into the world. Chai wallahs, you helped me learn to value all that is around me.
I love this video, by Conspiracy of Joy, about the making of those little clay pots: