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Energise with a cup of karak

The fragrant concoction is packed with goodness to up-lift you any time of the day.

Published: Tue 26 Jan 2021, 11:13 AM

On these crisp winter mornings, a steaming hot cup of karak chai is the answer. With mornings getting chillier by the day, it is a great idea to take the time to make yourself a big breakfast in the morning, which will keep you going for a good portion of the day. And, if you need just a little bit extra energy, then make sure you include a daily cup of karak chai.

'What's karak chai?' you ask. 'Karak' means strong and 'chai' means tea. Historically, tea leaves were viewed as medicinal herbs in India, rather than a recreational drink. Later it was com­monly consumed with small amounts of added milk and sugar.

Independent tea vendors or chaiwalas took the liberty of adding spices and differing proportions of milk and sugar resulting in what we know to­day as masala or karak chai.

In the UAE, karak chai as a drink has been steadily growing in popularity and is now a per­manent fixture on the country's F&B scene. You will find it being served everywhere; from the menus of high-end restaurants to small cosy tea shops, and even tiny street shops that sell nothing but different variations of it for a few dirhams. So, what exactly is it about the drink that has ce­mented its position as one of the favourite hot beverages of choice across the emirates?

One of the reasons why it is such a celebrated drink is because of its versatility. The most basic recipe calls for the drink to be prepared with loose black tea leaves, milk, cardamom, and sugar. The tea is strong and so, many people will only go for one small cup of it at a time. It is when you add the final ingredient, that you end up with real deliciousness in a cup. Karak chai calls for sev­eral crushed spices to be added and, depending on which part of the world you are from, these can vary. Some of the most popular spices include saffron, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and orange peel. The truly decadent versions contain a crushed mixture of all of these.

Another reason is the convenience of making yourself a cup. Traditionally, spices are infused into boiling water, milk and sugar are added as finishers. But if you're on the go or looking for a quick, easy and yet an authentic option, your lo­cal grocery store is sure to carry boxes with pack­ets of karak chai that you can quickly mix into a cup of hot water. If you're looking for a cool down, the same bags can be stirred with cold milk and ice-shaken, and voila! You've got yourself a home-made iced chai latte.

While many people might hesitate to call it a 'healthy drink' based on the fact that it contains sugar (some places prepare it using sweetened condensed milk), the truth of the matter is that the sweetness is present to balance the robustness of the spices; you can make the tea without sugar, some people even prefer it that way. Compared to a cup of coffee, karak chai has considerably less caffeine, yet the drink will keep you charged for the majority of your day. The spices in the drink will also aid in digestion, which is why it is con­sidered to be the perfect way to end a large meal. Ginger and cinnamon are responsible for lower­ing your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as reducing the risk of heart disease while cardamom helps bolster your immune system. So, the next time you get a craving for something warm to help fight the chill of the winter months or just want to feel upbeat in the company of your friends make yourself a cup of karak chai the most popular drink of the Middle East!

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