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Indian Tea: Mum's Hug in a Mug

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I don't know about you, but at this time of year, I'm a fickle morning brew-drinker. I'm sick of winter's hot and heavy lattes, but not at all ready for the chilly weightlessness of iced coffee. And so I turn to my Ol' Faithful of hot, caffeinated beverages to lift my spirits: Indian tea, Sequeira style!

It's nothing too fancy -- you'd find similar brews at every Indian-run shop in Dubai (where I grew up), but it holds a special place in my heart. It conjures up images of my childhood, when the end to an afternoon siesta was marked by a steaming cup of tea, poured out of a massive stainless steel thermos, possibly paired with a chocolate-covered biscuit... all leading up to an exhilarating "ahhhh!". It tastes like a warm hug from my mum, so now that I live so far away from her, it has an even more special place in my heart.

Have no fear Los Angelenos! If you too are craving a hug from my mum, I am willing to share the secret (no, not the Rhonda Byrne one). Given the added spices, it will remind you on the ubiquitous "chai", but it's a lot easier and much, much cheaper. It is also the perfect cap to a night of drinking. :)

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First of all, make sure you're working with some good quality Indian tea, and not that teabag stuff. Look for boxes of Indian loose leaf tea, available at the nearest Indian grocery store. I live close to Culver City so I get mine at my favorite, the renamed "Samosa House" (previously "Bharaat Bazaar"). "India Sweets and Spices" sells it too but they're always so grumpy there that I prefer not to give them my money. Anyway, there are a wide variety of brands to choose from, but I stick to the colonial, Lipton -- usually comes in a red and yellow box.

Bring one cup of water to a boil with one pod of cardamon, that has been smashed, and one small piece of cinnamon. Make use of all those exotic spices you bought for that one dish. Star anise? Throw it in. Got some leftover cloves? Go crazy. I have not tried this with powdered spices, but go ahead and experiment. Once the water is boiling, add one heaping teaspoon of tea. Turn the heat off and allow the tea to steep 4-5 minutes. Add a generous teaspoon of honey and as much milk as you like. I heat the milk up ahead of time so that it doesn't cool the tea too much. Stir, strain, and serve. You'll never be the same again.

I hope you try it! By the way, my mum's name is Rose. Figured you should know that before she wraps her tea-flavoured arms around you and makes you feel like everything is going to be ok.

Photo by me.