Spiced milk tea is a staple across the Indian subcontinent – it goes by many names but a common Bengali one is masala dudh cha – “dudh” is Bengali for milk. I found a big bag of Mirzapore black tea from Bangladesh (it’s one of the largest tea producers in the world) – it’s fannings – small pieces, nearly ground up in terms of texture.
I normally take my tea black, so this is a little bit more complicated than filling a mug from the kettle, but it’s still easy. I used this recipe from Bangladeshi Food Recipe – it’s a really lovely spice mix of cardamom, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, bay leaf, and cloves. It calls for cow milk (as opposed to water buffalo milk – hard to get in Ottawa anyways), and I used about half the sugar.
It turned out quite tasty – I was afraid boiling the tea that long would make it tannic, but there’s no bitterness, just a blend of milk tea and gentle spices in the background. A nice way to start the day!
Of course, while the preparation is different, this drink is basically the same as what we call “chai” or “chai tea” in North America. However, chai/cha is just the word for tea itself in South Asian languages – so there’s always someone who will be pedantic and point out that “chai tea” means “tea tea”. I’d argue that cultural context makes a difference, since if you order a chai here in Canada, you’ll get something very different than ordering a cup of tea.
Almost every language today calls tea some variation of either “tea” or “cha” – there’s a lot of history behind the two words and why each language uses it: