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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Best Masala Chai

As the weather gets cooler, and the days get shorter, blogger Pooja Makhijani recommends mixing up a steaming pot of masala chai. Here's her family recipe (so much better than the Starbucks version!)...


The Best Masala Chai You'll Ever Have
By Pooja Makhijani of Notabilia


Masala chai, a creamy, soothing South Asian beverage, combines black tea, spices, sugar and milk. Masala is a generic term for "a mixture of spices," and chai is a generic term for "tea." (Yes, "chai tea" is redundant—the phrase drives me bonkers!)

Chai is ubiquitous on the Indian subcontinent and in homes across the diaspora. An offering of tea is a sign of welcome and generosity. Every person who visited my childhood home was greeted with a cup of warm, milky, spicy tea.

Many American coffee bars list chai on their menus, but their concoctions tend to be overpriced and under-spiced. And the tea bags, pre-ground spice mixtures, and concentrates found on supermarket shelves are woefully bland. A proper masala chai made is made with loose tea and whole spices, resulting in a pungent and rich brew.

The spices that make up a traditional masala chai usually include some combination of cardamom, ginger, clove, black pepper and cinnamon. However, a cup of masala chai can be made to suit personal taste and preferences. My mother, for example, prefers cloves; my father would rather have fennel seeds. I've even known home cooks to empty their entire spice cabinet into their masala chai: coriander seeds, cumin seeds, threads of saffron, bay leaves, white peppercorns, even salt!

I encourage you to experiment with my simple recipe and adjust the ratio of spices or use a different sweetener (honey, jaggery, palm sugar) to emphasize the qualities you like best in your masala chai.

Recipe: Masala Chai
Serves 4

You'll need:
2 cups water
1/2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black peppercorns
4 whole cloves
4 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
2 cup whole milk
2 tbsp. demerara sugar, to taste
2 tbsp. loose black tea, preferably a malty Assam

What to do:

In a small saucepan, bring water, ginger, pepper, cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon to a boil. Add the milk and sugar to the pan and bring to a boil once again.

Remove pan from heat and add the loose black tea. Cover and let steep for at least 3 minutes (or longer, if you prefer a stronger brew). Strain the mixture into a warmed teapot or directly into teacups—or stainless steel tumblers, as the tea is traditionally served.

Thank you, Pooja!

P.S. More best recipes, including coffee cake and hot chocolate with a secret ingredient.

(Photos and recipe by Pooja Makhijani of Notabilia. Thanks to Shoko for helping with this series.)

57 comments:

Michelle Ash Latham said...

Sounds delicious -- perfect drink for fall!

Sarah Spitz said...

That sounds delicious!!!

We're vegans these days, so I'm wondering whether a soja version of this might work (and taste good) as well?

Love from Germany,

Birdy and Bambi

http://lasagnolove.blogspot.de/

Meg T said...

When I was living in India, I love, Loved, LOVED the masala chai! I've never been able to duplicate it here in the States and agree - Starbucks is overpriced and under-spiced. I can't wait to try this recipe! Thank you!

avhh said...

I'm so in love with the teapot! Where did you find it?!

K said...

This looks great but despite being Indian and living 35 years of life in India (Gujarat , where masala chai originates from) could never come to like masala chai. There some regions in India that are chai prudes..tea leaf, milk sugar water and thats it. But i could drink it if you serve in the kettle above :).

Pamela said...

Oh my! This blogger has such an elegant and beautiful way of writing. Will definitely check out her blog.

J said...

boyfriend and i are both from india and he makes his own chai every day (lattes for me). you inspired me to make this as soon as i got out of bed this morning, and we both loved it! thanks for the inspiration :)

Jesse said...

oh that sounds warm and cozy and all things fall. i'm not sure i'm ready to give up my iced coffee yet!

http://semiweeklyeats.blogspot.com/2013/09/work-outfit-1.html

Pitchoune said...

Sounds so delicious!... and the name is also a bit funny to me, I hadn't looked it up before: I'm Romanian and we call tea "ceai", read pretty identically to "chai"...so I guess we got the closer word for the original :)

Aslyn Lapham said...

I cannot wait to try this! Chai lattes from Starbucks are decent, but I am positive I will be replacing them with this!

Aslyn Lapham said...

I cannot wait to try this! Chai lattes from Starbucks are decent, but I am positive I will be replacing them with this!

Katrina Amstutz said...

My dad grew up in India (from a baby through highschool) and so my family has grown up with a love of Indian food and the tradition of making our own Chai. The recipe I use is slightly different from my mom's because she makes it without cinnamon (my dad doesn't like it) and I love ginger-y Chai, so I add extra ginger. :)

I've NEVER bought Starbucks chai or any kind of store-bought chai mixes on principle. Because I know how to make it myself, and I know it will never measure up to the real thing.

Here's my recipe for Chai:
http://chocolate-coveredlove.blogspot.com/2013/01/homemade-masala-chai.html

Grace Beekman said...

This looks so refreshing! Cannot wait to try! :)

http://sometimesgracefully.com

Laura D said...

I LOVE chai, although I buy a prepackaged kind. I'd love to try making my own.

http://greenmountainglobetrotter.blogspot.com/

Kirsten Lauren said...

Sounds prefect for a cool, crisp fall day. And I love the photos too!

Preppy Pink Crocodile said...

Oooh that sounds awesome! I love real chai and will have to try this soon now that it's so chilly outside.

KK

Michelle Panting said...

Yum! This looks delicious. Hope I can recreate it!

http://www.fullbellywornsoles.com

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K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
the southern hostess said...

I'm always searching for the best masala chai at Indian restaurants in New York, now I'll just make my own!

Sara Tall said...

Yum! How long can it keep?

Annie Reeves said...

YUM! Also - beautiful teapot/cups. Love it!

http://anniereeves.com

Djue said...

Im so happy you poster this ! That's exactly what I needed today, a good spice chai tea to enjoy cool autumn nights :)

Djue said...

Im so happy you poster this ! That's exactly what I needed today, a good spice chai tea to enjoy cool autumn nights :)

urban muser said...

looks delicious, and the photos are beautiful!

Simple-Savvy said...

I am totally making this recipe. I love chai!! Thanks for sharing.

Jemma said...

Hi Sarah - I do drink and enjoy cow milk, but I much prefer my chai with soy. Something about the nuttiness really complements the spices. Soy and honey - completely delicious.

Pooja said...

It's an antique. It belonged to my maternal grandmother's maternal uncle, if I remember correctly!

amyjcastle said...

okay so i made this but i didn't have loose tea so i used Irish breakfast tea and i didn't have whole cinnamon or cardamon soo long story short.. it's delicious :)

Pooja said...

You must drink it hot and immediately! No one "keeps" masala chai.

Amy P said...

This sounds delicious (much more delicious than Starbucks!) As a Starbucks veteran, I do have one tip for ordering chai at a coffee shop: if you like it spicier, ask for less milk. Milk mellows out the spice - so if you like it sweeter, ask for light water!

joya said...

love reading another authentic indian chai recipe! i posted mine a few months back:

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/140878294566822744/

and made a non-dairy /vegan version, which turned out pretty perfect!
cheers- joya
http://www.rajovilla.com

joya said...

Hi Sarah,
I posted my vegan version of authentic chai a few months ago:
http://www.rajovilla.com/2013/07/the-best-authentic-indian-chai/

it tastes wonderful !
-joya

Ditte said...

Such a pretty picture and yummy, yummy, I would like to taste that tea!!

Mrs. D said...

Same as the above have mentioned: I PREFER my chai with vanilla soymilk. In fact, the first time I had it with real dairy, I thought something was wrong.

Wassili A said...

I like your Picture so much !

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Eleanor Davis said...

This sounds so delicious. I have always loved chai and eschewed the starbucks version-after being in the UK with REAL tea, it's hard to like starbucks..

Wassili A said...

I like your post !

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Sara Tall said...

Will do! Thanks!

Shanti Knight said...

I LOVE "overpriced and under-spiced." perfectly stated :)

shalu said...

It Sounds Good .. I will definitely try this...
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sripriya kannan said...

I love ur post..Delicious....specially those on pandian foods

atul sharma said...

masala chai
Amassing... click..............
I love the photo.....and i also like tea.

Annette Lin said...

Mm, thanks for the recipe! I added some turmeric and used coconut cream instead of milk :) http://beinthestudio.tumblr.com/post/69405129094/sunday-treats-superfood-turmeric-coconut-chai

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jbeach said...

Wondering if anyone has a resource for stainless steel tumblers as shown in the photo. Thanks!!

Mary Liu said...

Great article, I enjoyed making chai following your instructions. Also recommended best chai types listed here: http://bestteareview.com/best-chai-teas/

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