In India, tea blended with spices accompanies and supplements Ayurvedic treatment, the ancient Hindu health and medical science. Drinking tea has also long been a purely recreational and social activity throughout India, and it is said the average Indian citizen drinks tea at least four times each day. For tea drinkers anywhere, however, Masala Chai can be a delicious, warm start to any day, or a nurturing, relaxing break in any routine. The sensuous aroma and comforting taste can become a daily ritual, or a treat reserved for more leisurely weekend times or special events.
“Masalas” are different spice blends used in Indian food preparation, with certain masalas concocted solely to enhance tea. As the world’s largest tea producer and consumer, India has many recipe variations on traditional Indian milk teas, and Masala Chai is one of them. Plain black tea usually forms the base, so the spices do not overwhelm the mixture, although other plain teas can be substituted.
Tea masalas are readily available in pre-mixed packages or tea bags found in markets, coffee specialty stores, or at numerous online sites. One of India’s largest tea companies, Girnar, offers a variety of teas and masalas for sale to the international market. But, Masala Chai is also easy to make fresh, and stainless steel tea pans with spouts can be found in Asian markets or Indian specialty stores, along with stainless steel cups or heavy glasses in which the brewed tea is often served.
The sensuous aroma, like that from simmering potpourri during holiday celebrations, creates a soothing olfactory treat for any occasion, and Masala Chai spice mixes make a distinctly Indian gift for tea aficionados. Try this simple, traditional recipe. Enjoy!
Ingredients (4 servings):
2 cups water
1 one inch cube ginger
3 pods allspice
10 black peppercorns
4 whole cloves
5 pods green cardamom
2 sticks cinnamon
Dash ground nutmeg or 5 “scrapes” grated from whole nutmeg
1 to 1-1/2 Tablespoons black tea, preferably Indian
2 cups milk
2 Tablespoons sugar, or to taste
Method: Place the water in a saucepan. Peel the ginger with the tip of a spoon and then grate it into the water. Grind the spices together using a mortar and pestle, or use a spice or coffee grinder. Add the spices to the water and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir in the tea and bring the mixture back to a boil. (For a stronger brew, let the mixture boil a minute or two longer.) Stir in the milk and sugar and bring the mixture back to a boil. Strain the mixture into a bowl to remove solids. Pour the mixture back and forth from the bowl to a pan a few times to mix thoroughly. Serve.