Middle East Chai

Middle East Chai

Having lived and travelled extensively around the Middle East for many years, it’s fitting we have a post on the unique beverages consumed. When the sun is beating down, the temperature is in the 40’s (100’s F), adding some natural minerals back into the body are essential. Vitamin B for Beer doesn’t really work for me (maybe a G & T). What are your favourite drinks in the heat?

Karak Chai

While coffee is the dominant drink in Arabia, tea has gained immense popularity in the form of drinks such as karak chai. Karak is derived from the word ‘kadak’ which means strong in Hindi. A legacy of the UAE’s long-standing trade and cultural relationship with India, this fragrant, spiced drink can be enjoyed in nearly any cafe in the city. Often this is prepared as a boiled, milky tea, where the whole concoction is made & boiled up.

Karak Chai
Shai bil Nana

Shai شاي Bil Nana

However, if you’re in a coffee shop where Shisha is being smoked, it’s not always convenient or healthy to have some of the heavy sweet drinks such as Karak Chai, Jellab, Tamar Hindi, or Turkish coffee (which is so strong as they boil the coffee grounds in water & pour it in a small cup). Turkish coffee happens to be one of my favourite after dinner drinks. It makes sense to drink a refreshing black tea with fresh spearmint leaves, which is wonderfully refreshing. My favourite is a mild Ceylonese tea, but often the main brand, Lipton is provided as a bag with some sprigs of Mint to add flavour as you like. Unfortunately the latter can be a minted stew of bitterness.

Yansoon

Black Tea with Aniseed. I believe this originated from Syria and is very soothing, whilst naturally sweet tasting due to the Aniseed and is used often in herbal teas for nursing mothers.
Many of the teas drank in the Middle East are sweet by the very nature of the heat & often humid climate, where our bodies clamour to add some sugar due to the ‘perspiration’ losses from everyday work. In cooler climates they would be very thick & cloying, but they work here and serve a useful purpose.

Yansoon