Growing up, I never understood the fascination of spiced tea. Whilst I enjoy a ‘good cuppa tea’ as well as spice in my every bite, I could never fathom why one would combine the two experiences. Recent years have seen the rise of the ‘chai’. Becoming a quintessential choice of beverage for some and yoga personified for others, chai has challenged this coffee drinking nation.
To get the skinny on this spiced tea, or rather, masala chai, I turned to my trusted source for all things Indian – my nanima (plump and cute granny with a wise smile). Whether masala chai was being consumed out of fad or taste, what she revealed to me made me aware of its essential qualities and purpose. Originating in North India, this drink is infused with ginger, spices, milk and lots of sugar helping the body ramp up to deal with those cold winter days. Like mulled wine, masala chai has an aromatic presence, but steeping those spices and ginger provide an even great benefit: to insulate the body.
Of course, this was a great incentive to try a drink I rejected as a 6 year old. Fit for a breakfast beverage or an afternoon snack, chai will leave you feeling satiated and ready to face the storm. It also taught me a personal lesson: Never let a 6 year old determine the taste of a grown adult.
With my new favorite beverage at hand, I experiment with spices all the time. The classic Indian way is to use cardamom, fennel, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. However, there is nothing stopping you from using star anise, all spice, nutmeg or even a piece of lemongrass.
4 cups of water
3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 medium stick of cinnamon
1″ piece of ginger
4 cardamom pods (with shell)
4 tea bags
1/2 a cup of hot milk
honey/ sugar to taste
1) Bring the water to a boil, add all the spices and ginger and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes
2) Add the tea bags and simmer for another 4 minutes
3) Add hot milk remove from heat after 2 minutes
4) Strain and serve
5) Add sugar or honey to taste
Pearls of Wisdom
Add a little more sugar than you may be accustomed to with regular tea or else the spices and ginger may impart a bitter taste
Since this is a little heavier than other teas as it requires more milk, it makes for a perfect stand alone drink. For those that have the munchies, serve yourself a simple little cookie.