September 21, 2020

Chai Karak - Emirati spiced Tea

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 Kalyani of Sizzling Tastebuds made us take a virtual food tour of UAE / Middle East and explore their cuisine by suggesting #EmiratiEats as the theme for the 265th week of Foodie Monday Bloghop weekly activity.  

She was liberal enough and allowed us to stretch beyond the boundaries of UAE and even explore Middle Eastern cuisine if we weren't comfortable just with options from the countries of United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi , AjmanDubaiFujairahRas Al KhaimahSharjah and Umm Al Quwain.)

Initially, I was a little doubtful if I would be able to pull through this challenge because of paucity of time to procure certain ingredients which were not available easily at the local stores and the online delivery dint have an immediate delivery slot. So, I continued reading and researching further on the various vegetarian recipes prepared in the Middle East / UAE to zero down on something which can be prepared with what is available at home.

While doing so , I found that there is quite a lot of similarity in the Indian Cuisine and the Middle Eastern cuisine especially in sweets and hot beverages. It was nice to read about the usage of various spices in their cuisine. 

The Arabs love their spices and no recipe is complete without the addition of the exotic spices. Rose water , cardamom and saffron occupy the top place in their recipes.Needless to say , I too love the flavors of cardamom and saffron which I widely used in Indian Desserts too.

I found 3 recipes which were very interesting of which I finalised Chai Karak / Karak Chai - I too love my tea with exotic flavors just like the Emiratis so this really caught my attention.  

The other two recipes Khabeesa and Laban / Leben were equally intriguing to try which I am sure to do soon.  

  • Khabeesa is a close cousin of the Indian Sheera / sooji / aate ka halwa but made using date sugar and flavored with rose water.  Some recipes use wheat flour as main ingredient while some call for sooji/semolina/ Farina .

  • Laban or Leben is plain buttermilk which is obtained after churning the yogurt to extract butter from it .

Chai Karak 

Sources from the internet quote that Tea /coffee culture has been a part of the Emirati Hospitality since time in memorial and every guest is treated with a cup of coffee or tea along with some dates . The Arabian Coffee is served as Black Coffee while the Tea is generally brewed with milk and some spices.  

Karak/kadak in hindi means "Strong".

Karak Chai means the tea prepared has a stronger brew . The tea concoction is simmered along with the spices until all the flavors are infused into the decoction.

The traditional Emiratis or older generation love their tea spcied with cardamom and saffron and sweetened using sugar . Other spices like cinnamon, ginger etc are added depending upon personal preferences. 

 I could sense the emotional connect between the Desi Cutting Chai and the Emirati Karak Chaai.

Just as we Indians love to sip on our tea at the " Chaai Tapris/ Tea kadai "  the Nationals of UAE also have a special love for tea and the tea shacks are open 24 hrs along the highways where people throng to catch a cuppa of nice hot tea flavored with spices as they drive along. 

Some recipes call for the using of Evaporated milk in the preparation of Karak Chai but it tastes equally good with regular milk too . If you follow Vegan diet , you may substitute with Almond or Soy Milk. 

Preparation Time - 5 mins
Brewing Time  - 15 to 20 min
Serves - 2 
Complexity - Easy 

2.5 tsp good quality tea leaves 
1.25 cups water 
1 cup milk 
2 tbsp condensed milk (optional) 
2 tsp sugar ( + or - as per your taste)
3 to 4 green cardamom coarsely powdered 
7 to 8 strands saffron / kesar

  • Take the water in a sauce pan and add in the tea leaves and bring it to a simmering boil .
  • Once it begins to boil, add in the cardamom powder and saffron strands and continue simmering on low flame .
  • When you feel the aroma of saffron , cardamom and tea waft through, add in the sugar . 
  • By this time , the tea decoction would have brewed in well .  Remember to keep the flame low at all time else the tea leaves on excess boiling will bring in a bitter taste and we don't want that.
  • Lastly , add in the warm milk and condensed milk , stir well and bring to a boil.
  • Strain this tea and serve while hot . You can add on a few strands of saffron while serving for added flavor and taste.
  1. Condensed milk already has sugar , so adjust sugar keeping that in mind. 
  2. Coarsely ground cardamom powder gives a nice flavor to the tea rather than finely ground cardamom powder.
  3. The slow simmering is the technique to get the Karak Chai right , so donot lose patience and increase the flame to brew the tea. 1.25 cups of water must reduce to 1 cup by way of simmering. 
Some lipsmacking Middle Eastern/ Emirati recipes from my fellow bloggers 

Minty Lentil & Walnut Pilaf  ;a delicacy from Oman by Kalyani 

Lavaash / Lavaas by Archana ; a flat bread variety from Middle East 

Mint Almond Hummus by Sujata  is a delectable hummus with a flavor of mint.

Shorbat Adas by Mayuri ji is a lentil based shorba/ soup popularly made during Ramadan for breaking the Fast / Roza.

Spicy Carrot Hummus by Swaty is absolutely colorful and spiced up using Sriracha sauce. 

Baba Ghanoush by Poonam is a lipsmacking dip made using roasted Brinjals and flavored with tahini sauce. 

Linking this Karak Chai to week #265 - EmiratiEats of FMBH


  1. Even I realised similarities between India and Middle Eastern Cuisine when I tried Baba Ganoush. Your chai karak with saffron strands , cardamom.and evaporated milk going in sounds so rich and full of flavors! Going to try this today itself. Thanks for the lovely share.

    1. Thanks dear.yes a lot of similarity im spices anf ingredients used

  2. You took me on the Hyderabad tour when this bm meet we were shown around a bakery. There they demonstrated Irani chai. The owner was like no I am not serving you ladies that. Now I can try it in the peace of home.

    1. Waiting eagerly for your feedback dear ..would love to hear your opinion regarding this tea

  3. Lovely pick for the theme, .. although not a tea drinker, I am sure this was very delicious and yeah, same pinch on the yellow coffee mug -:)

    1. hey same pinch to u too ... I know you aren't a tea drinker but if people at home love tea do try this is very soothing

  4. I read up so much about Karak Chai for this theme and then decided to make something else. Apparently, the whole concept of enjoying a tea similar to our cutting chai by the roadside all became a craze with all the Indian workers there. I so want to try it out as chai with condensed milk tastes different from our normal masala chai and also because of the saffron.

  5. Karak chai is a lovely treat to all chai lovers. Cardamom and saffron adds a lovely flavour to the chai. So many similarities between India and UAE cuisine. I would love to try this chai with saffron. Something different from the normal masala chai I drink.

  6. Its different from our masala tea. I would love to have this karak chai anytime. Sounds so flavorful. I can feel the aroma of cardamom and saffron. Condensed milk definitely made this tea more tasty.

  7. Loved this emirati spiced tea Priya, can feel the aroma of saffron and cardamom powder in it. Adding condensed milk surely tasted delicious, bookmarking to try this soon.


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