Recipe: Masala Cha(i)
making a classic beverage
Chai has graced informal huddles and fancy soirees in India for generations! It is a conversation starter and a dialogue builder, and is part of almost every social event in India. Many die-hard chai drinkers will insist on making their own cup, including yours truly. Some brew the tea leaves until the proverbial “cows come home,” while others prefer to let it steep. But they all like it steaming hot.
There is no wrong way to make chai, because everyone has their preference. But I’ve learned that it takes the right proportion of ingredients for a perfect cup. This one is a winter brew, made with spices that Ayurveda specifically recommends for the wintertime, to create a tantalizing and addictive cup. As someone once said: it is dessert, in a cup!
Makes: Eight 1cup servings; 85 cal. ea. Diet: Vegetarian, Gluten free Prep Time: Nil Cook Time, Ease: 5-8 minutes, Easy
6 cups water 8 tbsp granulated cane sugar, or to taste 5 tsp orange pekoe tea 3 tsp Earl Grey or Darjeeling tea 2” cinnamon stick 2 green cardamom pods ½” fresh ginger, roughly chopped 3-5 fresh mint leaves 2 cups whole milk
In a deep saucepan that has a good pour-worthy lip, set the water to boil. To this, add the sugar (to taste), both kinds of tea leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and mint. The water will take on a golden tan color at first and then turn to a clear, deep oak brown. The tea will begin to boil at this point. This should take between 4-6 minutes. Carefully pour in the milk and allow this to come to a boil (or a tan brown color). Remove from heat, and using a strainer, pour directly into teacups. Enjoy hot.
Variation: Tulsi Chai
Holy Basil is found in nearly every Hindu home, it is believed to be beneficial for overall well being in a home. Holy Basil is vastly different from any other form of mint or basil and must not be interchanged for health benefits. The leaves of Tulsi, or Holy Basil are often added to broths and brews as part of home remedies. Tulsi chai soothes sinus troubles, sore throats and is enjoyable even without any ailments. Fresh Tulsi leaves are essential, dried ones available in the grocery store may not be food-grade. To make Tulsi (Holy Basil) Chai, proceeed with the recipe in the same way, except eliminate the whole spices (cinnamon, caradamon, ginger and mint) and replace with fresh Tulsi leaves during the brew or as a final finsh. Enjoy hot.