Chai = Love

02/06/2015 10:41 am ET | Updated Apr 08, 2015

Chai (tea) was a staple growing up in our Indian household. We had chai when a neighbor stopped by to say hi. When I needed a break from studying or work, the answer was chai. Experiencing a three o'clock energy dip? Must be time for chai. After dinner, you got it -- chai time. I don't recall my parents or their friends ever saying it was too late for chai or that they had had enough chai that day. Anytime was chai time.


Photo (c) Octavia Hunter, Used With Permission

Almost every morning for 48 years, my dad has made bed tea for my mom and any of us lucky enough to be home. I would awaken to the gentle pounding of my father using the mortar and pestle to crush fresh pods of cardamom. I knew what that sound meant. The time was 7:15 a.m. and in five minutes the smell of fresh grated ginger, crushed cardamom and the scent of orange pekoe tea would find it's way into my room. Once the tea was dark brown, dad would add milk to make it a perfect caramel color. His sweet tooth had him a little heavy-handed on the sugar (not a problem for me). And in 10 minutes steaming hot chai would be on my nightstand. A hot cup of tea at my bedside made emerging from my world of dreaming into my world of doing a little bit easier.

On weekends or holidays, we would gather in the sunroom, where my mom somehow magically kept orchids blooming year-round in Buffalo, NY. We would gather in our pjs to discuss who fell asleep before the end of the movie (usually me), or what we dreamt about, or what we hoped to create together in the upcoming day.

It was only when I left home that I realized how much I missed dad's chai. Making my own chai tastes good, but dad waking me up with chai, now that's love. There's something so nurturing and connecting about my experience with tea. I realize the importance of these touchstones in my busy life, to ground me and bring me back to what's most meaningful. Now that I live 3,000 miles away from my family, I've noticed that when I'm homesick, I make chai for myself & to share with others. For me the equation is simple: Chai = love.

What are the ways that you feel loved?

i-Five Action
Bring to mind something in your life that is your own personal touchstone. What makes you feel connected and loved? Let that memory or that image inspire you. Please share with me what you come up with!

Dad's Official Chai Recipe
2.5 cups water
1 cup 2-percent milk (soy or almond milk)
1/4 inch grated fresh ginger
4 pods of cardamom
1 tea bag (he swears by Orange Pekoe Tetley tea)
3 tspn sugar

You'll also need:
Mortar and pestle
Small strainer for tea cup
Small grater
2 of your favorite coffee mugs

Bring water, fresh grated ginger, crushed cardamom seeds to a boil. Add one tea bag and let it become dark brown. Then add milk until the tea is a caramel color. Put two mugs in the sink and add 1 1/2 tspn sugar at bottom of cup. Put the cup strainer on the empty cup & pour chai until full. Stir and serve.

Doctor Neha

Neha Sangwan, M.D., CEO of Intuitive Intelligence is an Internal Medicine physician and corporate communication consultant who empowers people toward better health by teaching them practical communication tools to strengthen their relationships, decrease their stress levels and create the life they want. Learn more about her at her website, You can also subscribe to her newsletter, become a fan on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or watch her videos on Youtube.

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