When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I make tea

Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I try to immerse myself in an activity that requires a lot of physical motion and very little critical thought. Working in the kitchen is one such activity.

I made masala chai, which I like doing from scratch.

Masala chai is Indian spiced tea. It’s made by brewing black tea with different spices, most importantly cardamom. It’s served with milk and sugar.

I looked up the recipe online once and worked from there. I try to have the needed spices on hand at all times. This is quite handy because they also happen to be the same spices for pho, so many a spruced up instant beef ramen dinner has benefitted from these staples as well.

The spice mix will differ for each household, but from trial and error, I’ve settled on cardamom, coriander, fennel seeds, ginger, black pepper, and cinnamon. Other mixes use star anise, others include clove. I’ve tried using these two spices and like my mix better without them. But that’s me.

I also like to brew everything in milk instead of adding milk at the end. A Pakistani acquaintance said that his mom brews it the same way, so I’m doing something right!

Chai also served sweetened, but I’ve been cutting down on sugar, so mine isn’t. That said, sweetened chai tastes better, so I know I’m missing a lot by not adding some sort of sweetener.

I used to make a chai syrup from scratch which friends liked. We contemplated selling it, but it was a lot of effort and the idea was abandoned. I really admire people who make and sell stuff because that takes commitment and heart! Buy from small businesses, guys! A lot of work goes into providing us with quality products.

These are uncertain times. If we’re not careful, we can find our thoughts spiralling out of control quite often. Not only is this not helpful, it might actually make things worse. There are several ways to calm down from an anxiety attack, and one of them is focusing on the present. For me, that sometimes involves cooking and eating, and in this case, a cup of warm, comforting chai.


Yvette Natalie U. Tan is a multi-awarded author of horror fiction and the Agriculture section editor of Manila Bulletin.