No, you shouldn’t say Masala Chai Tea or Chai Tea for that matter. And no, not because it is not a tea but because you will be literally saying ‘mixed-spice tea tea’! Chai is the Hindi word for tea, and Masala simply means mixture, so it’s basically mixture tea, and adding another tea behind that is simply repeating yourself! As you might assume, this mixture originated in India and is still the most common way of preparing tea in those regions. Traditionally this is a decoction, and that is what we are going to be doing here, however, infusions can be made with similar ingredients. This mixture should give a creamy, sweet, and nutty taste. Interesting right!?! So let’s start brewing!!
- Black Tea (preferably Indian Tea)
- Green Cardamom pods
- Cinnamon Sticks
- Black Pepper Corns
A usual the proportions should be adjusted to your taste, however, the ratios are more or less as follows per one cup of chai, 3 green cardamom pods or a dried one (dried are stronger in taste), 1 cinnamon stick, 2 cloves, 3 peppercorns, and a thin slice of ginger (or half a teaspoon ginger powder). Last but not least, a teabag of black tea, or if you have black tea leaves it’s basically around 1 teaspoon of tea leaves. You need one cup of water and half a cup of milk per person as we will be simmering and the water will dry down.
Now grind all the spices, besides the ginger and the tea, and drop in boiling water. Leave to simmer on low heat for around ten minutes, this will allow the flavors to seep in the water out of the more stubborn ingredients of this recipe. Then add the ginger (chopped or ground) and the tea (preferably Assam or Ceylon tea, if you have other black tea that is not so strong you might want to add some more of it to the mixture, but again, all up to your taste buds!) and allow to sit for around five more minutes. Finally, add the milk (traditionally it’s basically full-fat milk but you can reduce it if you’re on a low-fat diet, it will lose some of its creaminess but I’m sure you will like it anyway!), most households apparently add sugar too in this step, but again you can either skip it or replace it with honey for a healthier version. You can also use jaggery if it is available to you for a more exotic taste, it is also slightly better than sugar, it has some nutritional value to it although still very high in sugar content, and it warms up the body so ideal for cold weather. Leave on low heat for a couple more minutes while string every now and again to help the milk stay nice and liquid. You can put off the heat when you see the liquid thickening, the longer you leave it the stronger and the creamier it will get. Strain the mixture and enjoy your chai!
Cardamon is slightly hard to find for me, so I flew around the internet to find a replacement. Equal parts of cinnamon and nutmeg, or cinnamon and ginger, or cinnamon and cloves should do the trick. I came across some recipes that added aniseed, or orange peel, and even vanilla was mentioned! Nutmeg, for sure, will blend in nicely too! The main ingredients are black tea and cardamon here, the others can be all changed. I even came across recipes with just black tea, cardamon, and one more spice.
For a lovely frothy version, you can ‘pull your tea’. This is done by passing the tea from one container to another getting some height in your pour. The liquid will cool down and capture air in this process creating bubbles and so froth is formed. Nice trick if you do not own a frothing machine, right?! Go ahead, try your favorite version, or give us the one you already use at your home, we’re always glad to hear comments and experiments!