Bikaneri Chai


Shashi Chhabra has fond memories of first discovering Bikaneri chai from vagabond vendors and stalls near her hometown of Allahabad during a Kumbh Mela celebration. For Shashi, the tea was extremely alluring, to the point where any other type of tea faded in comparison. The reason behind its addictiveness dawned upon her when family members pointed out that some vendors often blended varying amounts of afeem, or opium, into the tea. While this laced tea was given the ‘Bikaneri’ moniker and only sold at the Kumbh Mela, another version that involves the use of similar spices (minus the narcotics) has its roots in Bikaner, according to Shashi. Her version of the chai, which she makes at home, is best consumed during the monsoon or harsh winter days to keep the body warm. Sometimes, an addition of khus-khus helps create a relaxing, sleep-inducing effect too.

Fresh mint leaves 10 leaves
Guava (amrood) leaves 4 leaves
Curry leaves 1 sprig
Fresh rose petals 5 petals
Green cardamom 1 pod
Black cardamom 1 pod
Cinnamon ½ stick
Fresh ginger 10 grams or a 2-inch piece
Black peppercorns 8
Fennel seeds (saunf) 1 teaspoon
Ajwain seeds ½ teaspoon
Jaggery To taste
Khus khus ½ teaspoon (optional)
Water 240 ml or 1 cup
Tea 2 teaspoons
Milk (optional) 50 - 100 ml or ¼ - ½ cup (depending on personal preference)

Mixer-grinder, strainer, pot, bowl


Place all the spices in a mixer-grinder and make into a paste. Place aside.


In a clean bowl, add in the jaggery with just enough water to allow the jaggery to melt. Add in the spice paste to this, and blend well. The consistency should be moist enough to allow the paste to be rolled into approximately 4 coin-sized balls.


In another clean pot, add water and tea leaves to your preference until it comes to a rolling boil. Add one spice ball to this and let the tea simmer, infusing the spices


Adjust the sweetness with more jaggery, if needed, and strain the tea. You can add milk at this stage, prior to straining the tea.


Serve the tea while it is hot.


The Locavore’s Partnership Lead, Shreshtha Chhabra, and her paternal grandmother, Shashi Chhabra, discuss Shashi’s memories of food as a part of ‘Longing for Home’, an oral food memories project from The Locavore’s immersive installation at the Serendipity Arts Festival 2023.


Listen to the complete oral memory by visiting this link: Bikaneri Chai

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