When Indians refer to chai, they are referring to normal black tea. But masala chai refers to the aromatic spiced tea that most of us think of when we think of Indian tea. “Masala” refers to a mix of spices, specifically cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, cloves and ginger. Together, these spices produce a flavourful tea that’s also healthy — it’s believed to activate your immune system and boost your energy.
Masala chai may have originated in India, but it’s become popular around the world — although you may not be familiar with the careful thought behind each ingredent. For example, black pepper is often used in traditional Indian medicine for treating colds, and is said to relax the throat. Cinnamon and cloves offer a strong warmth to the tea (only small amounts are used because of their strength). And green cardamom (one of the most important spieces for bringing flavour to your tea) is a cooling agent in contrast to the rest of the ingredients. Ginger is used as both a spice and traditional medicine, and its fresh, mild taste makes it a must-use spice in masala.
Ingredients (for one cup of tea):
1 cup water
1/2 cup milk (3/4 cup can be used if you like your tea milky)
1 tsp black tea leaves (use Darjeeling or Assam if possible, for more flavour)
1/2 tsp sugar (more or less according to taste)
1 green cardamom pod
pinch of cinnamon
4 to 6 black peppercorns
pinch of freshly grated ginger
Pour the water into a pan and bring it to a boil.
While waiting, mix and pound all the spices together in a container to make the masala. Be sure to beat the cardamom leaves with the spices so that the flavours mix together. This is what will give the aroma and flavour to your tea.
One the water starts boiling, put the masala (spice mixture) into the water and let it boil with the water. The reason behind boiling them into the water is so the water will absorb the flavors. You’ll see the water starting to change colour.
After the water changes colour, add the sugar and let it dissolve into the water (takes a few seconds), then add the tea leaves.
Let it boil for about 1 minute. Boiling helps the tea leaves release their flavour.
Add milk to the water and again bring it to a boil.
This next step is an Indian secret! Boil the tea and then reduce to low and let is simmer. As soon as the tea stops boiling, raise the heat to boil again. Do this continuously 4 to 6 times. After each boil, you will see a change in the colour of the tea, as the tea leaves will be releasing more flavour with each boil. Boiling makes it a perfectly mixed, flavourful and not too milky masala chai.
After all the boiling, you will see that the tea has turned brown in colour.
Strain the tea and enjoy.
If you’d like to make masala chai (and other Indian recipes) with me, book our Home Cooked Delhi tour, on which you get to cook (and then feast!) in my family home!
India is known for its amazing food, and we know just where you can find the most authentic culinary experience in Delhi: at home with a local. Our ‘home cooked’ Delhi food tour is less tour and more unique local experience, and is hands down one of the most authentic things to do in Delhi.
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