|Photo by nehasingh7 on Flickr.com|
But in November 2011, I had the privilege of visiting India with a nonprofit group. I had chai twice a day—more if someone in one of the villages made us some! And let me tell you, it puts the bagged stuff to shame; even my homemade masala chai was kind of sad by comparison!
I spent my first two days home trying to return to Eastern Daylight Time, but after that I began a quest. I was going to make masala chai that wouldn't put me to shame if served to my Indian friends! I read recipe after recipe, watched a few videos, and finally concluded that I was doing it all wrong.
See, in India, they don't brew tea with spices and then add some milk at the end. No, Indian masala chai should be made with a mixture of milk and water, with the tea added for the last few minutes. Traditionally, the ground spice blend and sweetener are added to the liquid and heated until the milk begins to steam. THEN you add the tea, turn the heat to low, and allow it to steep.
In the end, I'm quite happy with my recipe. It's not perfect, and I certainly can't call it "authentic," but the taste really says "India." Plus, it sure makes my husband happy!
Tea Masala Spice Blend
All measurements by volume
- 3 parts ground cinnamon
- 2 parts ground cardamom
- 2 parts ground ginger
- 1 part grated nutmeg
- 1 part ground allspice
- 1 part ground cloves
Light and heat cause spices to degrade in flavor and quality! Store tightly sealed in a dark, cool place.
- 1.5 cups milk*
- 1.5 cups water
- .75 tsp tea masala blend
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp loose black tea*
Combine milk, water, and spices in a saucepan.
Heat on medium high until small bubbles form around the edges.
Turn the heat to low.
Add sugar and tea; stir well.
Cover and allow to steep for six minutes.
Strain and serve.
*A few notes on ingredients . . .
I use whole milk. Until my husband tried non-homogenized whole milk, he never liked milk. Now he does! Plus, I think the chai tastes much closer to what I had in India—creamier and richer.
As for the tea, masala chai needs something flavorful. My favorite is Taj Mahal from Brooke Bond, which was recommended to me by my interpreter and the grocery store owner in Kakinada, India. My Indian friends from church prefer Lipton Yellow Label. I have some at home right now (the international supermarket and both Indian grocery stores near me were out!), and it's good, too. But even grocery store loose black tea (or a good bagged tea) is better than pre-bagged chai, or (heaven forbid!) chai from packaged concentrate.