If you live in the U.S., you’ve probably had a chai latte or a redundant “chai tea.” Please, for the love of God, never call it a “chai tea.” Chai and tea are different words for one in the same thing: that often warm, sometimes chilled, steeped beverage that you may crave more or less often than the Queen. The word you use just depends on how it was exported to your country. Chai if by land, tea if by sea.
Following is a recipe for the traditional Indian method for preparing chai and that’s masala – with spices. These warming spices are the ones that we all crave when the seasons change, and they’re the driving factor behind the PSL craze. However, they can and should be consumed year-round in a satisfying cup of joie de vivre. I give you Masala Chai, from my dearest in-laws in Delhi.
1-4 cups water (depending on desired servings)
¼- 1 cup milk (whole or your favorite non-dairy substitute)
Loose leaf black tea
Black Pepper Corn
In a medium-size saucepan, bring water to boil over high heat. Boil a little more than what you’ll need: a little over a cup if you’re preparing one mug for yourself, and so on. First add the spices – about a handful – letting them simmer for about 5-7 minutes, and then add the loose leaf black tea – another handful – to simmer for another 5-7.
Use whichever black tea floats your boat. You can even use the powder from pre-bagged varieties. I often use loose leaf Assam or Darjeeling. The spices are also up to your discretion. The list above comes from a family mix produced in Delhi, but you can also consider adding ginger (powder or fresh), nutmeg, or coriander powder. Continue playing with your recipe, and once you’ve made it your own, combine your spices and store in bulk as your personal masala mix.
Now for the fun part: add the milk (1 part milk to 4 parts water). The milk will froth up to the top of the pot. As soon as it hits the top, turn the heat down to low! You only want the milk to be lightly scalded and you don’t want your precious chai to overflow all over the kitchen. Let simmer for another minute or so, then pour the liquid over a fine strainer into another pot, or directly into your mug if you’ve only prepared one serving. Serve with shortbread biscuits or rusk if you want the full experience 😉 and enjoy!