I currently live in Edinburgh with my husband of less than a year. I’m doing a Masters degree, and he’s along for the ride. We love it here.
One thing we love is the popular pastime among the extremely fit Scots known as hill walking. Such an utterly understated term, yet so aptly Scottish: hill walking is just that, walking on hills, which is more or less the entirety of Scotland. These walks often involve what the guidebooks refer to as “light scrambling”; one prepares for them by donning hiking boots (not sneakers or trainers), waterproofs (since the sky can open up literally at any moment), and a pack full of necessaries such as a map, compass, first aid kit, and adequate food if you get stuck on the side of the hill and have to wait for mountain rescue. Avid hill walkers use walking sticks which look like ski poles, and at least half of the people we see out walking are over the age of 50. (Yes, they sometimes make me feel inadequate.)
This morning, despite the country-wide “downpour warning”, we woke up too early for a Saturday and set out for the Pentland hills. They’re probably the smallest hills one could walk and still call it hill walking, but I have to tell you, even after training for and running a half-marathon this spring, those hills kicked my butt. Three hours and I almost collapsed into a heap when we boarded the bus.
Because this is Scotland, spring is basically just a random cycle of cloud, sun, hail, rain, wind, and more cloud. The temperature rarely rises above 10 degrees Celsius (about 50 Fahrenheit) and feels colder thanks to the wind and damp. Although we wore the right clothes (layers!) and worked up quite a sweat on our walk, I was still slightly blue by the time we got home.
My favorite way to warm up is through hot beverages, and nothing is better than real chai to restore feeling in my hands and a kick of spice to my sinuses. I always make chai on the stove, using real sugar and milk and a secret masala (spice mixture) courtesy of my best friend’s mother.
Give this a try on the next blustery day, and feel free to adjust the sugar, milk and spice measurements to suit your fancy.
Homemade Hot Chai
Chai is the Indian word for tea. All those menus which call it “chai tea” are just restating the obvious. You can find chai masala (which means a mixture of spices) in an Indian or specialty market, or you can make your own using a spice or coffee grinder and any or all of the following ingredients:
- black pepper
Or whatever other spices you like!
In a saucepan over medium heat, add 2 black teabags, 6-8 cups of water and 1/4 cup of sugar. Add 1-2 teaspoons of chai masala. Bring to a boil.
When boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer at least ten minutes. Taste and add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of milk, then continue simmering for three minutes. Turn off heat and stir in 1/2 teaspoon of chai masala. Serve in mugs.