I spent a semester of college in Nepal, a month of which was spent high up in a mountainous village teetering over the Kali Gandaki river…and nearly froze. I didn’t change out of my long underwear for a full month. Seriously, this is a place where you need some hot chai. Cup after steaming cup of it.
It was nowhere near that cold in Atlanta today, but it was certainly frigid enough to warrant some hot (well, tepid for toddlers) tea and stories of Nepal. As you might guess or already know, kids learn the most from books best when you attach reading to something experiential (food, motions, music, etc.). So, we paired our Nepali book with a sensory exploration of the spices mentioned on the first page…cinnamon, cardamom, ginger. This, naturally, meant licking everything, which led to some dismayed looks when the girls stuck chunks of ginger root in their mouths. Chewing on cinnamon sticks went over pretty well though!
I then let the girls choose which spices to drop into our pot and boil with milk into Nepali Spiced Chai. (I should note that Nepali tea is actually called “chia”, but since many folks know it as “chai” I’ll leave it as such here.) Every chai I’ve had in Nepal is a little different. Some use only cardamom. Some only ginger. Others are a mix of many spices. Many incorporate black peppercorns for an amazing kick (that I love, but knew would send these girls grabbing at their tongues).
If you’ve never had homemade chai (i.e. not the sticky-sweet stuff that comes in a box) I highly recommend trying it! I made our version kid-friendly because, I don’t know about your kids, but mine do NOT need a caffeine-and-sugar rush in the afternoon : )
Kid-Friendly Nepali Spiced Chai
Place the following ingredients into a heavy-bottom pot:
- 2-3 cinnamon sticks (2-3)
- Small chunk of peeled ginger
- 2 cardamom pods (if you have them)
- 1 whole clove
- 1 star anise (if you like that subtle licorice taste)
- 2-3 black peppercorns (if your kids can handle the kick)
- 1 teaspoon of honey
- 4 cups of milk (you can also use 1/2 milk, 1/2 water)
Bring to a low boil and allow the milk to boil for several minutes. Stir periodically to make sure the milk doesn’t burn, and whatever you do, do not step away from the stove because milk has that nasty habit of boiling up over the top!
When hot, add tea. Most Nepali chai uses loose-leaf tea, but for sake of simplicity I used decaf black tea bags. Allow the milk to boil up just to the top of the pan, then turn off the heat and let it seep for about 2 minutes. Pour the tea into a teapot through a strainer to trap the spices (or fish them out). Pick a book to read and enjoy!
I read Chandra’s Magic Light (click here to check it out) while the girls drank their tea and ate their Nepali cinnamon-ginger-roasted chickpeas we made earlier (based on this recipe). The book has such stunning illustrations, but is a bit long for toddlers, so having something to eat or play with while reading allowed us to finish the story together. Minus a few interruptions to wipe up spilled tea, and negotiate the drama over both girls wanting to wipe the table, but you know how it goes : )
Barefoot Books about Nepal: