Have you ever wanted to know how to make kick-ass Masala Chai? Well, wonder no more! This girl’s got you.
Chai has always been an integral part of my daily life and I truly believe that a strong cuppa can solve many ailments, be it a sore throat or even a broken heart. Growing up, my mom would make herself a cup of chai on the daily and would occasionally allow me to have a sip or dunk a biscuit in her tea. Then started the obsession and the res is history!
I love trying new spice blends in the chai variety or experimenting on my own by adding unusual ingredients, but the classic Masala Chai recipe never seems to bore me and I often go back to it, almost like a trusty, old friend.
The History of Chai
Chai is ubiquitous in India and can literally be found in almost every street of a city. It is enjoyed by people of all ages and is usually prepared at home or consumed at road-side tea stalls. It’s quite mesmerizing to watch the chaiwalla prepare the concoction, especially when he pours it back and forth between two pots to mix it well.
While tea was a native plant in India, it was mainly used for medicinal purposes. Pre-British occupancy Indians were primarily coffee consumers, but when the British feared that they would lose to the Chinese, who had a monopoly, they promoted tea consumption in India. At first there was reluctance and skepticism, but when the Indians began experimenting with spices and such, the revolution began. Thus came into existence the Masala Chai, and my word, it is truly splendid.
The Main Ingredient: Tea Leaves
The variety of tea leaves used to make Masala Chai is called “mamri” which is a cheap, yet strong variety of black tea grown in Assam. Popular brands would be Taj Mahal Orange Pekoe tea and Lipton Yellow Label, commonly found in Indian grocery stores. If this isn’t easily available to you, then simply use Orange Pekoe.
As an Indian, I firmly believe that our DNA is encoded with a reluctance gene to bland food. We add spices to pretty much anything, and the end result is almost always delicious. The exact spices used to prepare Masala Chai varies within every state of India. There is no codified recipe to prepare it and most families have their own recipe too!
Here are the spices I enjoy the most and frequently add to my blend when preparing Masala Chai.
- Black Pepper
- Fennel Seeds
Some people prefer to dry roast the ingredients before boiling them in order to release the flavours, but I simply drop them whole into the water.
Preparing the Chai
The way my family prepares chai is to simply dump in the spices, sugar and milk, bring it up to a boil, and serve! Preparation techniques may vary but the end result is usually the same: a fragrant cup of Masala Chai.
- 1 tea bag / 1 tsp. loose tea leaves
- 1/2 cup milk (refrain from using skim milk, almond milk, or any other variety)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1-2 tsp. sugar or whatever sweetener you prefer
- 2 green cardamom pods
- 3-4 black peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp. grated ginger
- a pinch of nutmeg
- a pinch of cinnamon powder
- a pinch of fennel seeds
- Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil and add in the spices and tea leaves/bag.
- Let the tea steep and release its colour, turning the water into a dark amber. You should also start smelling the spices. Let this boil for 2 minutes.
- Add in the sugar/sweetener to the boiling water. Stir until dissolved.
- Lastly, add in the milk, stir immediately and bring to a boil.
- Strain the tea using a sieve into a tea pot or straight into your cup.
- Sit back and sip away.
* If you want to make it stronger, then add in an extra tea bag.
** If you’re vegan, I’d add coconut milk. Almond or soy milk don’t seem to react well with the spices sometimes.
There you go kids, the perfect recipe (in my opinion) to make yourself a kick-ass cup of Masala Chai. If you do try this recipe, then share your review using the hashtag #kadakchaitalks. I’d love to hear from you!
Stay warm this winter.