Masala chai. Perfect cure for those grey days when you're perturbed by the constant drizzle; for moments of being overwhelmed by too many toddlers and their lack of sharing ability; or for planning out future adventures while you write down how and when you might be able to finally take that road trip to Alaska you've always dreamed of.
I was given a typed-out recipe back in 1988 by some friends who were missionaries in India. We've been making and drinking homemade masala chai ever since, and if you don't like the pre-mixed, overly sweetened "chai" (which simply means "tea") that you find these days at coffee shops, then I am here to help :) (And if you do like it, well, maybe I can convert you?)
Masala Chai means mixed spice tea. There is no exact recipe, but these four components are always included: a strong black tea (such as Assam); spices (typical spices used are cardamom pods, ginger, fennel, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorn and sometimes salt, saffron, cumin, turmeric, nutmeg or licorice...); milk (in India they use buffalo milk--you can also use almond milk as a replacement if you don't drink cow's milk); and a sweetener (such as refined sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, syrup or honey).
I love my spiced tea to have a bit of a "burn" in my throat and so my mix is fairly spicy. I make a homemade concentrate that I keep in the fridge and then simply mix with milk when I'm ready/needing/dying for a cup.
8 cups of water
3 inches of fresh ginger, diced
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons cardamom pods
1 tablespoon whole black pepper
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 tablespoon whole cloves
6 tea bags or 6 teaspoons of strong black tea, such as Assam
2 tablespoons of honey
Bring 8 cups of water to a boil. While the water is heating, lightly pound the cardamom, cloves, fennel and whole black pepper with your handy mortar and pestle. Add dry spices to the water. Add diced ginger and cinnamon sticks as well. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover and let steep for 10 minutes.
Bring spiced water to a boil once again, add black tea, turn off the heat, cover, and let steep for three minutes.
Add 2 tablespoons of honey (or more if you like it sweeter--I like mine barely sweet), stir to incorporate, then strain the entire mixture into a large bowl or pitcher or mason jar.
When making a cup of chai to drink, use one part tea blend, and one part milk. Either heat or pour over ice.
You can fiddle with how you like your blend, adding different spices or amounts--maybe you prefer to use dried ginger instead of fresh? Or perhaps you have a particular love for nutmeg? It's all fair game.
And if you want to see masala chai made with flare on the streets of New Delhi, then check out this video.
I do lack flare. I'm considering adding a little flare to the next batch...
Published: January 23, 2015 | Filed under: Home