Masala Tea

January 16th, 2013

Remember in the fall when I was raving about the cocoa chai rooibos I got from DavidsTea? Well, since then I tried masala chai at our favorite Indian restaurant, and it put my cocoa chai to shame. I got home and immediately started scouring the internets for the secret to making my own. I found a bunch of recipes, but none were quite right, so I made batch after batch of masala chai to see if I could hit on the perfect combination of spices. It was sort of a Goldilocks situation. First I made it too spicy, then too bland, and finally… just right! Daniel proclaimed it the best chai he’s had since he lived in Kenya—which is a big deal (lots of Indian influence over there, so he’s hard to please about this sort of thing). This chai takes some time to make, and it’s a little messy with all the spice crushing and straining, but it’s worth the effort.

masala chai recipe

masala chai recipe

masala chai recipe

masala chai recipe

masala chai recipe

8 cardamom pods
8 whole cloves
8 whole allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick (a second for garnish, if desired)
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
½ thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tablespoons Taj Mahal or Red Label tea leaves (They look like coffee grounds!)
2 cups whole milk (Low fat is okay if you must, but don’t go skim. It should be creamy.)
2 cups water
sugar to taste

Place the cardamom pods, cloves, allspice berries, and one cinnamon stick in a ziplock bag and crush them with a kitchen mallet, heavy skillet, or rolling pin.

Place the crushed spices in a saucepan with the black pepper, ginger, milk, and 2 cups water. Slowly bring to a boil, and boil for 1 minute. Keep an eye on it, because it will easily boil over. Remove the saucepan from the heat, stir in the tea leaves, cover, and let steep for 10 minutes.

Using a very fine mesh strainer (like this), strain into cups. Add sugar to taste and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

(makes enough to fill 4 small tea cups or 2 coffee mugs)

16 Comments

  1. i love a good masala chai! i lived in india for just under a year (2011) and this post reminds me that i still need to share/blog my own recipe for masala that i brought back…i had one of my co-workers (an older indian woman) teach me how to make it from scratch…it included many of the ingredients you have in yours :-)

    (and in india – red label is really popular…it’s the one i used while there!)

    • Amanda (wit & whistle)

      I hope you’ll come back and share the link when you post your recipe. I want to try it!

  2. I’m TRYING my hardest to get into tea… Like, REALLY hard.. I like the berry teas I’ve tried, because I love berries… but all the others I just can’t seem to like.. I’ll drink one cup and think it’s ok… then contemplate a second a while after and just can’t do it. I’ve tried doing an iced tea thing, but again, the berries win… I think I might need to admit that I’m not a tea person..

    • Amanda (wit & whistle)

      Aww sad! Have you tried rooibos tea? I like it better than green or black tea, because it doesn’t have that strong “tea” aftertaste.

    • F Saunders

      I like to quiz people on their tea preferences. Here’s some of my “anecdotal research”:

      Black Tea:
      If you’re a coffee drinker I recommend Twinings’ Irish Breakfast. It’s stronger and is like a gateway tea for coffee drinkers. If you can find Australian Breakfast that will do too.

      If you’ve been drinking only English Breakfast or Orange Pekoe so far and you’re just not enjoying it, I recommend trying Earl Grey instead. A lot of people do not like the Ceylon tea in English Breakfast blends. Earl Grey, on the other hand, has a nice citrus note that many people like. Lady Grey is also great, esp if you don’t like coffee. Cream Earl Grey has vanilla notes and can be wonderful if blended nicely.

      If you’re still not feeling it for black tea, and you’re willing to try one more, try Chinese Pu-Ehr tea. It normally comes in pressed blocks from Chinese tea shops but sometimes you can find teabags (Luk Yu brand is sometimes in specialty grocery stores). It has an interesting smoky flavour. Very bold.

      Also, if you haven’t done so yet, try adding milk and sugar to your black tea. I’m sure the tea purists are screaming but ignore them.

      For Green Tea:

      Try adding sugar to your green tea. Green tea gets bitter really fast. I know the purists are screaming but I likes what I likes and plain tea hurts my tummy.

      Try Jasmine tea and don’t let it brew too long. Each brand or blend is different so you’ll have to experiment with brewing times.

      Or try Genmaicha (the stuff they serve at sushi restaurants). Restaurants will water this tea down but it’s great at a fuller strength.

      If none of that works, then don’t sweat it and just enjoy the berry teas! They are fantastic too. Try Stash’s Meyer Lemon tea for some variety. It’s super and much smoother than other lemon teas such as Celestial and Bigelow. Celestial makes some other fruit teas which are really nice. Bigelow’s got some other decent teas as well but this post is already long enough.

      Hope that helps.

    • Wow, thanks! I have the Australian Breakfast at work each day, and it’s not really my thing either. I’ve tried hard mainly with green tea. I’ve tried it with added lemon, ging seng, ginko and some awful idea of adding Dandelion, and none of them were good. I’m not sure if we get those brands of tea here in Australia or not, but I will have a look out for them.

    • F Saunders

      I’m not a fan of green tea generally, though I enjoy sometimes jasmine or citrus-flavoured green tea.

      If you’re not feeling it with a straight black tea like Australian Breakfast, and you still want to like it, try some of the flavoured black teas like Lady Grey, or a black tea blended with berries. I like Strawberry black tea myself; with milk & sugar it’s almost like having a… Strawberry Pocky I guess?

      It sounds like you’ve really given tea the old college try! Don’t force it on yourself – if you really don’t like it, no sense in flogging your tongue with it, yeah? :) Berry-only teas ARE delicious! And way prettier in the cup.

  3. This will show my middle-agedness, but I can’t do chai because it gives me heartburn. Even though I love Indian food and spicy food in general! Sad stuff. But the photography here makes me wish I could jump right in and have a sip of the tea. Well done!

  4. Hurray, an approachable recipe on Masala tea! I’m drinking the Tazo brand of chai this morning and am up for something homemade :)

  5. mm, this looks so good! I love a tea with a healthy amount of spices :)

  6. F Saunders

    Hey ever tried grinding spices in a simple electric coffee grinder? You’ll have to get an extra one just for use with spices but it does a bang-up job. I use the… hmmm… black and decker? Braun? Anyway, I just get a cheap plug-in one and it does the trick quite well.

  7. hi amanda! i just find your blog and im loving everything! thanks for sharing! im going to follow you to see if i can catch some inspiration… i dont know where is mine :(

  8. Thank you for sharing your recipe, Amanda! I’ve been looking for chai recipes to try. Also maybe something worth trying is using honey. At the cafe where I work we use honey instead of sugar which is really good!

  9. Shaari

    Firstly, what a fantastic website/ blog! Lots of cool ideas…will definitely be visiting often :)
    I am from India – not that that makes me an authority on chai but I am a tea lover especially masala chai. So just FYI, here’s how I make it….
    Boil water, then add the ginger & spices, let it boil for a min, then add the tea powder (I personally prefer Taj Mahal…it’s a better quality tea) let it boil for couple of mins, add milk bring it to a boil or let it boil for couple of mins (depends on how strong you want your chai) switch off the gas and then add sugar. Enjoy!

    • Amanda (wit & whistle)

      Awesome Shaari! Thanks so much for sharing your method. I’ll give it a try next time I whip up a batch. :)

 

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