In Virginia, we typically get a number of transition days between summer and fall where the weather doesn’t quite know what to do with itself. The day turns grey and the sun beats against the clouds to heat the residual moisture in the air and make the atmosphere hint at the humidity we sweated in during the previous months.
What results, when days like this occur, is a sense of overall gloom, where the sky feels like it is being lit from behind a dirty sheet of laminate. The temperature is cooling but not crisp like it gets when autumn is truly upon us. The best equivalent I can think of is when you get one of those hot microwaved towels that they offer at some Chinese restaurants. After the initial clean, fresh, and striking warmth evaporates, you’re left with a damp, limp, lukewarm piece of cloth that feels like an uncomfortable handshake. And then you get bitten by mosquitoes. Welcome to Virginia.
This kind of weather tends to make me grumpy, even though I know that it generally signifies that autumn is around the corner and if I can just hold out for a couple of weeks I will be invigorated into a frenzy that will drive my friends absolutely nuts. [Fall is my favorite season.] It also makes me sleepy and prone to have my thoughts wander. I believe it’s sometimes good to have those melancholy days where your mind can meander and you allow yourself to wallow in the sludge of personal gook that you’ve pushed away to simmer on the back-burner.
This becomes a problem, however, when I know that I have approximately 27 other things I need to be doing. So what should be a slow-moving, lethargic, draining-of-emotional-phlegm kind of day instead ends up being intensely stressful because I’m having a hell of a time getting anything done.
When I find myself in these kinds of situations, I need to step away, breathe, and allow myself to take a few minutes to do something distracting so I can clear my brain. You know, hit the personal “reset” button.
One of the best remedies I’ve discovered for this funk is to make some Masala Chai. It only takes fifteen to twenty minutes, which I can justify as being an excusable amount of time for a break, and once you remember how to make it it’s pretty mindless. The ritual is perfect because it requires attention, but not a lot of thinking – an excellent way to cleanse the mental palate.
My favorite thing about making Masala Chai, though, is the end result. This tea is something that wraps itself around all of your senses and gives you a gentle squeeze. Everything about it, from the aroma, to the creaminess, to the permeating warmth, to the quiet sense of accomplishment you get because hey, you just made yourself some goddamn Chai tea, is comforting.
Samovar’s Masala Chai has proven to be one of my absolute favorites, and I have a big tin that sits in the cabinet and waits patiently for days like these.
By the time I finish making my batch, 99 percent of the time, I find myself calmer, awakened, soothed, and ready to take on the world again. I’d say that for a tea to be able to accomplish that is a pretty big deal and certainly worth a try. And what harm can it do? At the very least, you will end up with something delicious. Plus, if the first cup doesn’t get you to where you need to be, there’s always cup two.