Spiced tea, to stoke the coals. Chai.

I woke up cold inside today. I don’t know why. I was warm enough outside. I mean to say, my body felt warm, but I felt lonely and slightly out-of-place. I have chronic jamais vu, to the point where it was suspected I was an epileptic at one point, and that’s been kind of an issue lately.

Jamais vu is sort of the corollary to déjà vu. It’s the feeling that everything should be familiar, but that it isn’t. That the things around you aren’t really yours, this is not your beautiful house, this is not your beautiful wife. The closest I can describe it is when you go to the supermarket and they’ve rearranged everything, and put different things in different aisles on you. You’re in the condiments section–why is there dog food here? This shouldn’t be…. It also happens after they–They, the ubiquitous “They”–cut down trees on a street you travel often, or when the light changes with springing forward or falling back.

Plate with spices

The spices for chai. Clockwise, from top: sliced ginger, black peppercorn, cloves, green cardamom pods, allspice berries, nutmeg, anise, star anise, fennel. Not on this plate is the pinch of saffron added as an afterthought.

It can be a sign of a petite mal seizure. A little bad one. Or of a stroke. Or your brain could be taking a shit. Or you could be schizophrenic, or have some other thought disorder. When they thought I was epileptic, they made me take an EEG. Electroencephalogram. It consisted of putting electrodes on my head and shining a strobe light two inches away from my eyes and flashing it at different speeds for an hour. Not fun, but interesting.

Food is an easy way to fix it. That’s probably why I fixate on food so much. I also need caffeine as soon as I wake up, so hot beverage is the first thing I think of.

Chai stokes the fire. Making it is also a process. Processes ground me. They put me back into my body. So it became a mission, and in doing so I became solid again. Less ghosty, I was able to meld the soul to the flesh again, and in doing so,  I became me.

Chai Tea Recipe

  • Three-inch piece of ginger, sliced
  • Two cinnamon sticks
  • 1 T cloves
  • 2 T cardamom pods
  • 1-1/2 T black peppercorn
  • 3/4 t allspice berries
  • 2 nutmegs
  • 1/4 t anise
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1/4 t fennel
  • 1 pinch saffron (not pictured)
  • 4-8 C water
  • 3 T black tea (two to three tea bags)
  • Honey and/or brown sugar to taste
  • Milk (soy, rice or cow) to taste

Nota bene: All amounts are approximate, and the bolded items are the ones that don’t really vary in my chai. Sometimes I put a bay leaf in. Some people use either fennel or star anise, but not both. I’ve been known to put in cumin and coriander. However, this blend turned out really well.

Also, a tea without much flavor is best. No Earl Grey, Lapsang Souchong or Scottish Breakfast.

Boil all spices. Bring the water all the way up, then bring it down to a low simmer. Cover it, and simmer for about ten minutes. Turn off the heat, then let it steep until it’s as strong as you want it to be. I like it spicy. Remember, you can always cut it later with milk or water.

Add the tea. You can either put loose tea in and then strain the whole thing, or put tea bags in and then strain the spice out. As I like it to get spicier and spicier, I put tea bags in and then remove them, but leave the spice in the pot as I drink cup by cup.

Sweeten and step on it with some milk. I don’t sweeten any tea but my chai. I like it with some honey and some brown sugar, both. I find it’s a more complicated flavor.

After the tea, my day got much better. Someone called me and asked me to go to yoga. I managed to get a shower in before and after class. I saw some people who I love very much. I saw someone who I’ve been concerned about smile and laugh with meaning. Did the tea do this? No. It was a commitment, I think, to being alive. Sometimes it’s hard to make this commitment. Processes help. Little ones, like tea, help.


One comment

  1. Pingback: So tired. Probably because I’m hitchhiking in my sleep | Occipital Hazard

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