This is a very weird entry for my blog, I'll admit, but I get questions about chai every time I make it for someone! So, here we go.
First, a bit of background. "Masala Chai" simply means "spice tea" (so calling Indian tea "chai tea" is redundant; you're saying "tea tea".) In India, it's even more ubiquitous than coffee is here, and just about every household has its own recipe.
Since every hostess has her own recipe, chai is really more of a classification of tea. The main components are tea (traditionally a strong black tea), spice, sweetener (sugar, usually) and a creamer of some sort. (I love half and half; surprisingly, Very Vanilla Silk Soymilk is also good!)
The most common spices in chai are cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and (surprise!) black pepper. Other traditional spices include nutmeg and ginger, but experimenting is fun. I've used dried orange peel with good results.
By the way, I learned to make Masala Chai in 1998. (My recipe is based on one from The New Guide to Spices, but I have altered it a bit.) The funny thing is, now chai is trendy. I was way ahead here!
I'll post my recipe next. (If anyone cares...)