It’s a traditional spiced milk tea from India.
Are There Any Variations of Masala Chai?
There are so many ways to make Chai Tea; it’s no surprise there are some mighty unique variations! Traditional recipes for chai usually involve black tea combined with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and cloves. But if you're feeling creative - why not add allspice, star anise, or fennel seeds? If you like something extra unique, try adding bay leaves; nutmeg; cumin; coriander; vanilla, cacao nibs & even white pepper! For the dairy lovers team, cow milk but us plant-based folks strongly suggest opting for coconut milk instead :)
Steeped or Stovetop?Need help deciding between steeped or stovetop chai? Your best bet is going for the traditional way - stovetop! Simmering this aromatic blend of spices on your range top creates a complex and delectable flavor that can’t be beaten. Even if you don’t have hours to spare, in just 20 minutes, you can whip up a fantastic cup of cozy chai goodness.
What’s the best masala chai recipe?
Treat yourself to a great cup of tea — one crafted from an expert blend of four luxurious single-origin, loose-leaf teas! With 6 grams of Hawaiian black tea, 2 grams of each Korean and Nepali variety, plus 17g Darjeeling second flush - this exquisite infusion will surely tantalize your taste buds. For those looking for something unique without caffeine overload: A special herbal option is also available!
WHY THIS RECIPE?Making a mean cup of masala chai is a no-brainer for some of us. It's like we're on autopilot as we make our perfect cup.
But maybe your in-laws asked you to make everyone chai, and the pressure is on, or your parents never taught you how. Perhaps you had an incredible cup at a restaurant or a coffee shop and want to make your own!
If you haven't made chai before, then this recipe will help you:
- Find your perfect balance of spices. Most coffee shops use a concentrate with an overwhelming flavor of cinnamon and concentrated spices. This doesn't lend for a balanced cup of chai. The base recipe creates a starting point that can be adjusted.
- Account for evaporation. The key to creamy chai is some of the liquid evaporating to create a slightly thicker, milky tea. You'll discover whether you're partial to the 2:1 or the 1:1 water-to-milk ratio.
- Discover two methods to aerate chai - the "chaiwallah" method and the double boil.
- Learn about the history and culture behind Masala Chai. This is important as we continue to see this incredible drink diluted in popular culture as Chai Tea, a rendition that has become its drink.
Any of your favorite milk or creamers will work, but boiling the milk with tea leaves and spices is vital for the creamy consistency.
Black tea - Search for Indian brands of black tea that use the CTC method. My favorite loose-leaf black tea is Danedar.
Otherwise, Assam and Darjeeling tea work best as alternatives, and English breakfast is a good runner-up. I do not recommend earl grey. Some families even make their tea blend - my dad does a blend of black and green tea leaves
Spices - Most chais use four whole spices - cloves, peppercorn, cardamom, and Ceylon cinnamon. Other spices include tulsi, nutmeg, star anise, fennel, and mace but in minimal quantities to prevent overpowering the chai, which is why they may be included in chai spice, not directly added to chai without being ground and mixed with other spices.
Ginger - I like the ginger to be subtle in my chai, so I'll use one or two thinly sliced pieces of ginger. If you want a more pungent taste, grate or crush the ginger in a mortar and pestle.
Sweetener - Granulated sugar is the most typical sweetener, but brown sugar, stevia, honey, and even maple syrup will work. By balancing out all the spices, sugar helps bring out the flavors you just developed in your Masala Chai.
If you're using honey or maple syrup, stir it in while the chai is off heat but still hot. Sugar can be mixed in a while making the chai or according to preference when serving.
☕ HOW TO MAKE MASALA CHAIThere are several ways to make a quick masala chai now - with masala chai tea bags, loose tea leaf blends, readymade ground chai spice blends, and masala chai concentrates. But you lose control, flavor, and creaminess that way. The last way is using whole spices.
Most families make Masala Chai with whole spices. It has the best flavor, so this is the method we'll go over.
Crush the spices. Break up the spices using a mortar and pestle into smaller pieces.
Boil the water. Place a stainless steel or nonstick saucepan over high heat and add the water. Add ¼ - ½ cups of water if your saucepan or pot has a large diameter to account for evaporation. As the water comes to a boil, add the spices and ginger so they can release their flavor.
Once the water comes to a boil, add the tea leaves or tea bag. Reduce the heat to low to medium. Let the tea steep with the spices for 2 minutes, no longer to prevent bitter tea. Then, add the milk.
Pro tip: A stainless steel saucepan is best for making Masala Chai. Towards the end, you'll notice that a bit of the milk may have burned, or the tea leaves and spices are stuck to the side. This way, you can easily scrub off the residue with a steel brush while washing dishes.
Aerate the Chai. There are two main ways of aerating chai to develop flavor:
- One is the double boil, notorious for causing an enormous mess. Bring the chai to a boil on high heat. The level will rise until it's almost to the top, then quickly lift the pot off the heat until it comes back down, or immediately lower the heat if you have a gas stove. This is the first boil.
Repeat it for a double boil. Watch the chai closely; otherwise, you’ll have a spill on your hands. Another hack is to put a wooden spoon over the top of the pot so that once the tea hits the scoop, it won't boil over.
- The second way is to pull the chai used by chaiwallahs (chai vendors) in India. Use a small cup with a handle or ladle to scoop some chai and pour it back into the pot from a height to create bubbles. Repeat this a few times.
Pro Tip: If your chai doesn't have much color or isn't strong enough, add some more tea leaves and continue to simmer until you're satisfied. Chai is very forgiving.
Strain and serve. Strain the tea with a sieve when pouring it into cups or a pot for serving. Spoon the sugar into the individual cups according to preference and mix until combined.
The way chai was served in the 1900s was also rooted in classism. British tea drinkers used porcelain, upper-class Indians used stainless steel, everyday folks used clay cups called kulhad, and others drank from saucers. Today, people in India still use kulhads or small glass cups, leaving a space at the top for holding on to so their fingers aren't burned.