Mira Manek’s Book of Chai has over 60 recipes and fascinating family tales

Mira Manek’s latest book is on her love affair with tea sprinkled with fascinating family stories from across generations

April 29, 2024 12:47 pm | Updated May 03, 2024 12:25 pm IST

The book comes with over 60 recipes, and is peppered with anecdotes about the history of tea

The book comes with over 60 recipes, and is peppered with anecdotes about the history of tea | Photo Credit: Seemanta Dutta

It was after writing her second book Prajñā: Ayurvedic Rituals for Happiness, that UK-based author Mira Manek realised the value behind everyday rituals. An important one was brewing her daily cup of tea. “I have always had a love affair with chai, and more specifically with spices that are always a part of my brew, even before I started drinking tea itself,” says Mira , whose latest book delves into her love for the beverage, and her family memories linked with it. Book of Chai (published by Hachette India) released on April 29 and comes with over 60 recipes peppered with anecdotes about the history of tea, its health benefits, and Mira’s personal stories revolving around the drink.   

The book comprises over 60 recipes

The book comprises over 60 recipes | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Mira explains how she grew up drinking ukaro, a drink with milk and spices brewed together, with sugar. “I never thought or planned to make chai my business,” she says, of Chai by Mira, her brand in the UK, wherein she also supplies to cafes and restaurants, “and definitely did not think I would write a book on chai. But, as with all that I’ve done in life, it happened very organically. And in this book, I bring together my love not only for chai, but for India, spices, storytelling… those of my grandmother growing up in a village in Gujarat with her maternal grandmother (nani), while her own family and mother were in Mombasa, Kenya, and her memories of her nani making chai in the morning,” says the author of Saffron Soul, a book on Indian vegetarian cuisine. .

The book (that she started writing in 2022) takes readers through a brief history of tea, ingredients to brew the perfect cup, chai with spices, herbs; regional variations of the beverage; and a section of cooking with chai. The latter comprises dishes such as sweet miso chai porridge, saffron chia muesli, vanilla chai chia pots, among others. “What transpired when I started writing the book,” says Mira, “was that the stories became the focus, and the history was equally important, which took many hours and days to research. I visited the archives at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew in the UK a number of times to read through their incredible array of books.”

Mira Manek (right) with her grandmother

Mira Manek (right) with her grandmother | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The recipes, “cover many if not all of the regional recipes of chai throughout India, spice variations, tea with and without milk, tea made with salt and so many others, but I’ve also sprinkled in my own creations like a spiced melted hot chocolate,” says Mira, who enjoys her tea with a home spice blend, freshly grated ginger, and sometimes additional cardamom and a little saffron. 

The Book of Chai is dedicated to Mira’s grandmother. “There’s a story of her eight-month pilgrimage back to India with my grandfather and their three young boys years later, of the one trunk they carried with them,” she adds, “I also have stories of my own experiences of the Mahashivratri mela in Junagadh, and of serving chai at the foothill of Mount Kailas.”

Chai and pakora

Chai and pakora | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Considering the book is dedicated to tea, sections on coffee and short eats also make their way into the book. So, why not just focus on tea? Mira says the history of coffee in India, surprisingly, is older than that of tea, though the history of spices is the most ancient. “So, it’s important to touch upon coffee being older than tea,” she says, adding that the tea pairings with varied snacks from across the country could not be missed. “From freshly fried pakora and chai in the monsoons to biscuits dunked in chai… the list is endless. I’ve also given my own take on recipes as well such as the masala chai cake, spiced overnight oats, and saffron biscuits.”

The book is available on amazon.in

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