Slumdog Millionaire Movie Night Chai Tea

As I have always been fascinated by the mysticism of the East, I’m also mesmerized by the glitter and dance of Bollywood – the Indian equivalent of Hollywood film and drama.  So, if you are into the Bollywood scene at all you may be aware that we are having a rare Bollywood event in New York City this summer.  Every year the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Weekend and Awards are held in a different international city in the world with the most recent being held in Madrid, Spain.  This year the IIFA magic is coming to New York City for the first time in July and is expected to be the biggest Bollywood celebration internationally.  The two-day gala is being held at MetLife Stadium, known for hosting National Football League games, major concerts and other entertainment events.  The IIFA Weekend and Awards is expected to bring a lot of business to NYC and is being treated like a big blockbuster movie being put on in America.

Slumdog Millionaire

There have been many Hollywood blockbusters influenced by India, and most of the them head to the Oscars, such as The Hundred Food Journey and The Marigold Hotel.  However, the one that I believe has had the biggest impact is Slumdog Millionaire.  Much like Bollywood, this is a film so upbeat and colorful that by the time you’re relaying its infectious air of optimism to friends, you could forget that it features a much darker side of Mumbai and street life.

The premise of the film is that Jamal, a Chai Walla – Tea Server in Hindi, who is an 18-year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, is about to experience the biggest day of his life. With the whole nation watching, he is just one question away from winning a staggering 20-million rupees on India’s “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” But when the show breaks for the night, police arrest him on suspicion of cheating; how could a street kid know so much? Desperate to prove his innocence, Jamal tells the story of his life in the slum where he and his brother grew up, of their adventures together on the road, of vicious encounters with local gangs, and of Latika, the girl he loved and lost. Each chapter of his story reveals the key to the answer to one of the game show’s questions.

Calm your beating heart with the famous Chai Tea of India and its Chai Wallas as Jamal returns to answer his final question on the game show while 60 million viewers watch on.  It’s an exhilarating thrill ride.  Chai Wallas or tea vendors on almost every street corner are known for the art of making this spiced, sweetened black tea mixed with milk. There are many variations to making this special tea, but it most commonly consists of a blend of spices, which often includes cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, pepper, fennel, and star anise. I posted this version a few years back and it is a much simpler version, but still quite delicious and the fresh use of spices and brewing tea beats the tea bag version.

Chai Tea


4 whole cloves

2 cardamom pods

1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces

3 cups water

1⁄4 teaspoon ground ginger

1⁄8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1⁄2 cup milk

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 tablespoons black tea (decaf is best)


  1. Bring water to boil in a 1 quart sauce pan.
  2. Add the spices, cover and let simmer for few minutes.
  3. Add sugar and milk, stir.
  4. Bring back to just barely boiling (watch pot, milk will bubble over).
  5. Add tea leaves, cover pot, remove from heat.
  6. Steep for 5 minutes.
  7. Pour through filter to strain.
  8. Serve hot in tea cups.

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