I know we’ve talked about autumn teas, and there is another tea perfect for this time of year. Do you enjoy Masala Chai? It’s lovely any time of year, but the milky, spicy, sweet flavor is perfect for walks through the crisp autumn air and warming up on a chilly morning. The spices wake up your senses and give you an extra spring in your step.
You’ve probably had (or at least seen) a ‘chai latte’ in cafes and restaurants. Dearies for steep’s sake, chai translates to ‘tea’ so you are actually just saying ‘tea tea’! Masala chai is the spiced tea we are talking about. Although most places refer to it as ‘chai’, you know now the appropriate way to refer to it!
Masala chai is a staple in parts of India where it is made at home and sold on the street. The vendors selling the fragrant tea are called chai wallahs. Char drank many of cups from these vendors on her travels through India, and I had the pleasure of accompanying her. I will never forget those fragrant teas poured quickly with expert hands, or sitting in her suitcase during those bumpy train rides!
Masala chai started off as a medicinal drink of herbs, until the British started increasing tea production in the early 1800s and promoting tea drinking in India. Many families have their own version of masala chai. It almost always contains warming spices such as cardamom and ginger. It can also contain cinnamon, star anise, fennel, peppercorn, nutmeg and cloves. The spices often vary by region. Milk and sweetener are also added. It is such a delicious drink!
Kat first started drinking masala chai after trying a latte at her local café. She enjoyed the spices but thought the brew was far too sweet. Then, after dining with friends at an authentic Indian restaurant, she had the real thing. Freshly made, masala chai is a delight for the senses. Spicy, sweet, silky, warming. She likes to drink it after her meal, to enjoy all of the flavors without anything getting in the way.
The method of preparation can also vary based on family. Kat likes to boil everything together on the stovetop to let all the flavors infuse and concentrate. Important things to always include are fresh spices, high-quality tea, and a rich tasting milk. A strong, malty Assam tea is a great choice but you can use any black tea you’d like.
Kat’s recipe for masala chai:
3 cups water
3-4 teaspoons black tea (Assam is preferred), or 3 teabags
1-inch piece of fresh ginger cut into pieces
5-8 cardamom pods
A cinnamon stick
3-4 black peppercorns
Milk of choice to taste
Choice of sweetener
Add the water to a small pot. Crack open the cardamom pods and add them along with remaining spices to the water. Bring to a boil. Add the tea and steep, then add the milk. Let the whole thing boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, strain, and enjoy. Add as much or as little sweetener as you like (you can also add the sweetener while you are boiling everything together if you’d like it better incorporated.
For a bit of a twist, adding vanilla or even chocolate to your masala chai will change it into a different yet equally delicious drink. Serving it warm is the more traditional way, but it is also delicious iced.
If you enjoy masala chai, what is your favorite way to drink it? Do you have your own secret recipe?