Beverages

A Memorable Beverage – Karak Tea

I still remember the first time I tried Karak tea. I was in Dubai with my family and we were wandering around Global Village, admiring many of the different cultures from around the world. We wandered through a souk in Morocco, listened to music in Egypt, enjoyed the tastes of Jordan, admired the architecture in China, watched dancers in Thailand, strolled through Italy, and experienced we so many other delights from the many countries represented. Global Village is literally a carnival for your senses…with a side of shopping. There was a slightly cool breeze that November evening and my sister suggested we get a cup of Karak tea as we were walking between countries. She explained that Karak is a local chai beverage that every vistor to Dubai has to try. We bought some Karak from one of the beverage stalls and after my first sip, I was in love. My first taste of Karak tea was sweet with a slightly earthy flavor, a fragrance that tickled my nose as the steam rose from the cup and a complexity of spices. A single sip warmed my soul.

KarakTea_Framed

When I returned back home to Arizona, I scoured the internet for a recipe. I tried several and all of them just didn’t capture the taste I remembered from my trip to Dubai. After trying out four recipes unsuccessfully, I finally stumbled across one that was nearly identical! And it was so simple to make. In fact, I already had all the ingredients in my spice cabinet and pantry. The key is to use evaporated milk (aka condensed milk) because regular milk just does not have the right flavor or consistency. Another reason the evaporated milk is important is because the recipe has water and that would dilute regular milk while the evaporated milk is thick enough to hold up well with water.

By the way, evaporated milk in Germany is an interesting thing. I’m not sure why it is loved here so much yet, but there is usually a large section in the grocery store dedicated to a variety of evaporated/condensed milk options. There are different quantities of milk fat ranging from 3% to 12% fat content, some come in bottles, some come in little boxes, some come in little plastic containers…but no cans. Now in America, you can only buy evaporated milk in a can and will usually find just 4-6 types of evaporated milk at the grocery store: 1-2 brand names, a generic store brand, and each brand will have a low-fat and regular option. So America has about one foot of grocery shelf space dedicated to evaporated milk versus Germany’s 3-4 shelves spanning a width of four feet. Very curious, indeed.

Ingredients (serves 2-3):
2 cups water
1 can of evaporated milk (e.g. Carnation, Eagle Brand, etc)
1 Tablespoon sugar
3 green cardamom pods
3 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tablespoon loose leaf Ceylon Assam tea

Before starting, use a knife to make a slit in each cardamom pod and break the cinnamon stick  into several pieces. In a small saucepan (in the images below, I am actually using a large Turkish coffee pot), heat the water with the cardomom, cloves, cinnamon, tea leaves and sugar on high heat. Feel free to use more or less sugar depending on your preference. Allow the mixture to come to a boil and then reduce the heat to allow it to simmer for 6-7 minutes over medium heat.

Then add the evaporated milk and allow the mixture to heat up until it comes to a boil. Be careful to avoid boiling it over onto your stove, it’s annoying to clean up! Once it has just started to boil, your karak is ready and should be a lovely caramel color. Remove the saucepan from the heat, pour into serving cups using a strainer and enjoy!

 

 

Karak Tea

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A sweet and fragrant milk tea enjoyed in the Emirates and other Gulf countries.

Ingredients


2 cups water
1 can of evaporated milk (e.g. Carnation)
1 Tablespoon sugar
3 green cardamom pods
3 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tablespoon loose leaf Ceylon Assam tea

Directions

  1. Before starting, use a knife to make a slit in each cardamom pod and break the cinnamon stick  into several pieces.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat the water with the cardomom, cloves, cinnamon, tea leaves and sugar on high heat. Feel free to use more or less sugar depending on your preference. Allow the mixture to come to a boil and then reduce the heat to allow it to simmer for 6-7 minutes over medium heat.
  3. Add the evaporated milk and allow the mixture to heat up until it comes to a boil. Be careful to avoid boiling it over onto your stove, it’s annoying to clean up! Once it has just started to boil, your karak is ready and should be a lovely caramel color. Remove the saucepan from the heat, pour into serving cups using a strainer and enjoy!

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10 thoughts on “A Memorable Beverage – Karak Tea

      1. I need clarification on whether this recipe calls for “evaporated” milk or “condensed” milk. They are not the same. Condensed milk is thick and very sweet. Evaporated milk is more like half & half and not sweet at all. Which one is used in this recipe??? I would be more inclined to use Evaporated milk. Condensed milk lends itself better to desserts.

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  1. Thanks for the recipe! Though for anyone not wanting a lot of sugar, I would not add a tablespoon of sugar if you have used condensed milk since c. milk is very sweet.

    You wrote that condensed milk is also known as evaporated milk, but in the US they are two different milk options. Condensed is thick and has been heavily sweetened before canning , while evaporated has not been sweetened. Both milk choices are concentrated with about 60% of the water removed. 🙂

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    1. Thank you for pointing out the difference. Yes, you are talking about sweetened condensed milk. I use evaporated milk not the syrupy sweet stuff! Where I lived in America, it’s called either evaporated or condensed interchangeably. The sweet stuff is specifically called “sweetened condensed milk.” I will edit the recipe to clarify that it is evaporated milk because I don’t think this would be drinkable with sweetened condensed milk, lol! 🙂

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  2. Thanks for the recipe. Like you, my first encounter with this wonderful concoction was during my last trip to Dubai, UAE (my third time) last month. Atop Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain stands a small cafeteria famous for this tea. And there, I fell in love with it almost instantly. When I got back to Dubai, I tried several more places serving this tea and said to myself I had to have the recipe. Two things, though. One, do I really need 1 can of evap. milk for every cup of water, or is this a typo? Don’t you think that’s a lot of milk for the amount of water? The other one is about the tea leaves. Can I substitute any regular black tea in bags for the Ceylon tea? If not, what do you recommend (something more common and easy to find)? Can’t wait to try your recipe!

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    1. You can probably reduce the evaporated milk somewhat, but it’s not a typo. Part of the taste profile is due to the large amount of evap milk and I’ve seen multiple recipes with the same ratio. You might want to try half a can the first time around, then add more if you think the taste isn’t right. In regards to the tea, I’ve used a black Darjeeling that turned out fine. So you can probably use another type of unflavored black tea. Enjoy!

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  3. Hello fellow Arizonan! Not sure if you are near Mesa/Tempe. But there is a Middle Eastern market and deli that serves Karak! It’s called Princess Deli -2620 W Braodway Road, Mesa

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    1. I moved away two years ago (sadly), but I plan to visit in the next month or two! I’ll have to stop by Princess to give it a try! I have had a few meals there in the past, but I didn’t know they served it. Thanks for the heads up! 🙂

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