I call Chai the super drink because not only does it taste delicious and warming to the core but it has the added benefit of being really healthy. Many of the spices used in Masala Chai have been used medicinally in both Chinese medicine and Indian ayurvedic practice for centuries.
A lot of us know what Chai is but in case you have not yet had the pleasure, it is a milky, spicy, sweet, hot tea. The word Chai actually means tea and Masala means spice, so spiced tea!
When I started my quest to make 'from scratch' Chai I went to the natural health food store and bought the spices whole. There are some fabulous recipes where you combine the spices whole, boil, then steep them in water and milk. The next stop I made was to the Indian grocery in Boulder. The owner (who is from India) told me that most people in India use a powdered masala chai mix vs. the whole spices. I decided to try it both ways.
In my research, I found that there are SO many different recipes. It really is a matter of personal preference and people are quite passionate when it comes to how they like their chai. There are four main ingredients in most chai.
The main spice is cardamom. You can get it in the spice section of your grocery store as a ground powder. If you want the actual green pods you may have to look a little further. I got all my spices at the Vitamin Cottage in the bulk spice section. In a quick internet search I found it on amazon, just to give you an example. Shop around, the prices vary quite a bit. Much like ginger, cardamom aids in digestion. It had anti-oxidant properties (may prevent or delay damage to cells). It is also filled with beneficial oils and vitamins and it smells incredible.
Most chai also contains cinnamon. I got the sticks in bulk. If you are going to the grocery store you may want to consider just getting the ground spice since the sticks are really expensive. I got mine in bulk for 2.99. Cinnamon has anti-oxidants and is an anti-inflammatory. The oil in it is reported to have anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. It even has been reported to reduce blood sugar levels.
The third ingredient in chai is cloves. You can get whole cloves and grind them in your spice grinder or just buy them in the ground form. cloves are quite a dominant spice so you will need proportionally less than your other ingredients.
The last of the main ingredients is ginger. You can use either fresh or powdered but I did read that the fresh ginger can curdle your milk so I opted for the powdered. Ginger is often used to soothe indigestion and reduce nausea. It has anti-inflammatory properties and a delicious little kick to it.
Many recipes contain black peppercorns. This adds a nice spiciness to your tea if you like the slight burn which is so warming on a cool day. Black pepper has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and is filled with vitamins.
Other common spices people like to use in Chai include star anise, fennel, nutmeg and allspice. It all depends on your personal preference. Star anise and fennel have a really nice licorice aroma and flavor.
The preferred tea to use is a black tea. I tried both loose and bagged tea and really enjoyed the flavor of the loose tea however, a benefit of using the bagged tea was it was already measured out for you. Sometimes it's hard to tell how much of the loose tea to add if you are not as familiar with it. A general rule of thumb is one teaspoon of tea per 6 fluid ounces of water. The higher the quality of tea, the less you need.
HOW TO MAKE CHAI FROM WHOLE SPICES:
I adapted my recipe from this one. I loved it's simplicity so I used it as my base and then tweaked a few things here and there.
1. Get a saucepan and add 3 cups of water to it.
2. Add 1/4 tsp of whole cloves. (It looked like about 5).
3. Add four green cardamom pods.
4. Add 1/4 teaspoon of whole BLACK peppercorn and one cinnamon stick. In the picture above, you may notice pink peppercorn instead of black peppercorn. I loved the description on the bottle of the pink peppercorns. They are not as sting-y as black pepper and even have a mild citrus flavor. I was researching them and stumbled upon some articles that said pink peppercorns can be toxic to some people. They are in the same family as mango and cashews (so people with nut allergies might want to avoid them) but they are also related to poison ivy and Sumac. Some people have reported some rather unpleasant side effects so I decided not to include them in the recipe. I read the information AFTER I DRANK IT! I tried to distract myself from wondering what it would feel like to get a raging case of internal poison ivy and luckily I did not have to find out.
5. Add one star anise. I can't help but sniff these every time I open the package and smell that amazing licorice scent.
6. Add 1/4 teaspoon of powdered ginger
7. Add three bags of black tea (or 3 teaspoons of loose tea). Bring the whole thing to a boil, turn down the heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. The picture above is what it looked like after 10 minutes. Once the tea is finished simmering, add a cup of whole milk and 4 teaspoons of white sugar (You can substitute milk with a non dairy milk such as almond, soy or rice. You may also use the alternative sweeteners like honey, agave, or maple syrup.)
8. After you add the milk and sweetener, bring the mixture to a boil then strain using a metal colander and serve piping hot.
HOW TO MAKE A MASALA MIX:
Get a big bowl and mix the following together:
1/8 CUP GROUND BLACK PEPPERCORN
1/4 CUP GINGER POWDER
1/8 CUP GROUND CINNAMON (3 STICKS)
1/4 GOUND CARDAMOM
1 1/2 TEASPOONS GROUND CLOVE
1 1/2 TEASPOONS NUTMEG
1/8 CUP STAR ANISE
Blend the spices well.
Store in an airtight container.
How to make the Chai with the mix:
For one serving add 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup water, and 1 teaspoon loose black tea to a saucepan. Bring to a low simmer stirring continuously for 3 minutes to steep the tea. Remove from the heat and add 1 teaspoon of sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon of masala mix. Bring the mixture back to a boil, strain with a metal colander and serve hot.
There you have it. Masala Chai two ways.
Thanks for stopping by!