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Around the World in Tea: Elaichi Chai in Pakistan

This month’s ‘Around the World in Tea’ is another homage to my roots and an ode to a tea that I have been drinking since I was very young. I have wonderful early memories of starting my day with my mother making a pot of elaichi chai (cardamom tea) for the family to drink over breakfast, it was the perfect start to the day, and I continue this custom today, with my first cup of tea, also my favourite, enabling me to prepare myself for the day and whatever lies ahead.

Sadia's Elaichi Chai 1

Elaichi Chai is drunk throughout Pakistan; tea drinking in Pakistan has become an important part of everyday life and has become embedded in the culture and social life there. The times that I have visited my parents’ home town in Pakistan, tea has played a pivotal role and epitomises the hospitality that guests receive, when visiting guests expect a cup of tea as a minimum. If you’re lucky enough to visit a Pakistani bazaar (market) you’ll notice that the shopkeepers drink tea on tap, quite literally!

Elachi Chai in Pakistan

A view of a tea shop in Karachi. Photo: Jalal Qureshi/ Express

Black tea in Pakistan was initially introduced during the colonial British era in South Asia. Cities like Lahore had a very vivid tea culture, the beverage quite quickly absorbed into local culture and the home. Today tea is consumed throughout the day, at breakfast, during lunch breaks, in the afternoon after lunch, and in the evening at home.

Pakistan tea culture is rich and diverse with various regions of the country having their own assortment of flavours and varieties. In Karachi, Elaichi Chai is popular, whilst Doodh Pati Chai (a very thick and milky version) is preferred in the Punjab. Varieties of sweet biscuits accompany and are enjoyed with tea. In northern Pakistan, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region they enjoy a green tea called ‘kahwah’. And finally in Kashmir, a ‘pink’ Kashmiri chai is enjoyed that is a wonderful concoction of pink, milky tea with pistachio and cardamoms. I’d love to share the recipes for these teas with you all over time on this blog.

Sadia’s Elaichi Chai

Serves 4


3 cups of water
1 cup of milk
10-12 green cardamom pods
4 tsp sugar
4 heaped tsp of your favourite loose leaf tea


Step 1. Bring water to boil in a stainless steel or non-stick pot.

Sadia's Elaichi Chai 2

Step 2. Split the cardamom pods and add to the boiling water.

Sadia's Elaichi Chai 3

Step 3. Add the tea leaves and sugar and simmer for a minute.

Sadia's Elaichi Chai 4

Step 4. Add milk and boil till the tea is a creamy caramel colour.

Sadia's Elaichi Chai 5

Step 5. Remove from the flame and pour into teacups, ensure you use a tea strainer to catch the tea leaves and cardamom.

Sadia's Elaichi Chai 6

Voila and serve with biscuits, I love a particular variety of almond and pistachio biscuits that you can purchase from most good South Asian shops in London.

Sadia's Elaichi Chai 7