Jaggery Tea (Gur Ki Chai गुड़ की चाय )

Jaggery tea, , a popular beverage in India known as “gur ki chai” गुड़ की चाय or “gur chai” गुड़ चाय in Hindi, is simply a drink of black tea sweetened with jaggery (an unrefined form of sugar). Jaggery tea is particularly popular among folks in northern India during winter time as jaggery is believed to provide more nutrition and warmth compared to sugar and thereby helps to ward off winter-related illnesses. Because of the unrefined nature of jaggery, it is considered to be significantly healthier than refined sugar.

The process of making jaggery was pioneered in ancient India and this ingredient has been used in Indian cuisine for centuries. In India, jaggery, which is known as “gur” गुड़ in Hindi, is made with sugarcane juice or sap extracted from palm trees such as the palmyra palm tree and date palm tree. In addition to contributing a distinct flavor, palm tree jaggeries are considered to be more nutritious than sugarcane jaggery.

Moving south to Sri Lanka the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean”, plain black tea, a beverage very widely drunk throughout this tropical island is usually sweetened with sugar. However, the traditional practice generations ago, was to sweeten the tea with jaggery, known as “hakuru” හකුරු in Singhalese. There was a slight difference in the sweetening method compared to Indians; jaggery tea in India is made by dissolving the jaggery in black tea whereas in Sri Lanka, a little cube of jaggery would be bitten into followed by a sip of unsweetened plain black tea. This way, the Sri Lankans believed less jaggery is consumed per cup of tea.

In Sri Lanka, the most popular types of jaggery are made with sap extracted from three types of palm trees: coconut palm, kitul palm and palmyrah palm. The sap (known as “mee-raa” මී-රා in Singhalese) is boiled down and then left to harden to form jaggery. Arguably, the kitul palm jaggery is the more popular variety of the three among Sri Lankans. Jaggery from coconut palm is known as “pol hakuru” පොල් හකුරු in Singhalese (“pol” පොල් means “coconut”), jaggery from kitul palm is known as “kitul hakuru” කිතුල් හකුරු, palmyrah jaggery is known as “thal hakuru” තල් හකුරු and sugarcane jaggery is known as “ukk hakuru” උක් හකුරු.

 

Version 1 (Indian style)

Serves: 1

Serving size: 1 cup (about 250 ml)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp black tea
  • 1 cup spring water
  • 1-2 cubes (about 1-2 tbsp) jaggery (or as desired)
  • 1-2 cardamom pods

Method:

In a pestle and mortar, crush the cardamom pods.

In a saucepan, combine water and jaggery.

Over medium-low heat, bring to a rolling boil.

Continue boiling till jaggery is completely dissolved.

Add black tea and crushed cardamom pods.

Bring to a boil then stop heat.

Strain to a tea cup and serve hot.

Version 2 (Indian style)

Serving size: 1 cup (about 250 ml)

Serves: 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp black tea
  • 1 cup spring water
  • 1 cube (about 1 tbsp) jaggery
  • 1 cm piece ginger – crushed in pestle and mortar
  • 1-2 cardamom pods
  • ¼ cup fresh full fat milk

Method:

Crush the cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar.

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, bring spring water to a rolling boil.

Add crushed ginger, crushed cardamom pods and jaggery.

Continue boiling until jaggery dissolves.

Once jaggery dissolves, add black tea.

Bring mixture to a boil.

Add milk.

Bring to a boil.

Stop heat.

Strain tea into a tea cup.

Serve hot.

Version 3 (Sri Lankan style)

Serves: 1

Serving size: 1 cup (about 250 ml)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp Ceylon black tea
  • 1 cup spring water
  • 1 cube jaggery

Method:

In a pot over medium-low heat, bring spring water to a rolling boil.

Stop heat.

Add black tea.

Allow tea to brew for 2-3 minutes. Be careful not to brew any longer as the tea could end up with a bitter taste.

Strain tea into a tea cup and serve with a cube of jaggery.

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