Ginger and Chiya

By Ang Lama

Aug 4 2022

Ginger, also known as Zingiber officinale is native to tropical climates like China, India, and Nepal (Coren, 2018). The part of the plant we use is called a rhizome which is an underground stem (Joseph, 2000). Ginger has been commonly misrepresented as being a root when it’s a stem. Due to many years of asexual propagation, today ginger is unable to sexually reproduce and cannot produce seeds anymore. Ginger is grown by dividing the rhizomes making sure they each have a bud, and planting them in the soil (Ferry-Swainson, 2000).

It’s common knowledge today that ginger has many medicinal uses along with flavoring teas and dishes. My grandma and my ancestors all used ginger daily in Nepal. Nepal is one of the major producers of ginger (Coren, 2018). Traditionally, ginger is a common spice in Nepal grown to flavor Chiya (tea), Dal (lentil soup) and curries. It has also been used in my family medicinally to treat colds, sore throat, nausea, and many other illnesses. Today I prepare ginger tea or chiya when feeling unwell as it is one of the many pieces of knowledge passed down to me orally by my mother and grandmother.

Chiya - Nepal
(Serves 1-2 people)


  • 2 black tea bags (Camellia sinensis)
  • 4 cardamon pods (Elettaria cardamomum)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (Cinnamomum sp.)
  • 2 whole bay leaves (Laurus nobilis)
  • ginger, 2 inch piece (Zingiber officinale)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 whole cloves (Zyzygium aromaticum)
  • 1½ cup milk (can be substituted with dairy-free alternative like oat milk)
  • 1¼ cup water


1. Add water to a pot on medium heat and let it come to a boil.

2. Wash and gently crush ginger, cardamon pods, and cinnamon sticks on mortar and pestle and add them all to the pot along with the cloves and bay leaves.

3. Once the water is boiling add milk (or oat milk), the tea leaves and sugar then stir the pot.

4. After 2-3 minutes the color of the tea will change to a caramel color, now it’s ready.

5. Before serving, strain the chiya with a strainer and serve it with some biscuits or puffs.

A Closer Look

Ang Lama is a summer intern in the Urban Foodways Internship program. Generous support for the program is provided by the Mellon Foundation


Coren, G. (2018). The story of food: An illustrated history of everything we eat. Dorling Kindersley Limited.
Enari, L. (1978). Ginger: A Spice from the Orient. Garden: 5–8. Retrieved from:
Ferry-Swainson, K. (2000). Ginger. Turtle Publishing Distribution Center.
Joseph F., R. (2000). Ginger: Zingiber officinale. Element Books INC.
Schulick, P. (1993). Common spice or wonder drug?: Ginger—health care rediscovers its roots. Herbal Free Press.