Sunday, January 15, 2006

Masala Chai

My first cup of chai was made by a friend from India where the word chai is a generic name for tea. I missed how he prepared it and when he moved away, I was left on my own to search for a real masala chai. First I went to my local Indian grocery and found a tea called "Fantasy" which was a flavored loose black tea claiming to be masala chai (spiced Indian tea). It smelled and tasted like a potpourri. I then ordered some chai from The Republic of Tea. Here I found a "Republic Red Chai" which is caffeine free and made with herbs and spices. This was not even close to what I remembered of the real masala chai. I also ordered a green tea chai from the Republic of Tea that is really tasty, but not what I was looking for. My mom gave me an instant chai variety pack including "elephant vanilla" and "chocolate chimp" flavors for Christmas, just add water or milk. When Mr. Dieter tasted it he said "it's just like a christmas spice cookie". Then I read the ingredients to him: cane sugar, non-dairy creamer (partly hydrogenated coconut oil, corn syrup solids, sodium caseinate, mono and diglycerides, dipotassium phosphate ... ) he exclaimed" I'm surprised you would even drink that, why would you feed me such poison?" To my delight in the Saveur Magazine: Issue number 56 from 2002, I found a recipe claiming to be masala chai. In this recipe you grind the spices in a mortar and pestle then steep them with a black tea. I use the "Taj Mahal" brand loose tea that comes from my local Indian Grocery. After making my own fresh chai, I have no desire nor do I understand why others would consider the cheap artifical taste of anything but the real thing. Here is the recipe for masala chai as written in the Saveur magazine. This is a comfort drink if there ever was one.

Masala Chai
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 3 cardamon pods
    crush with a mortar and pestle, then transfer to a medium saucepan.
  • add 3 cups of water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 1/4" thick slices of fresh ginger root
    bring to a boil over medium-high heat, cover and set aside to steep for 5 minutes.
  • Add 5 tbsp loose Darjeeling tea and 4-5 tbsp. sugar, cover, and let steep for 3 minutes more.
    Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into 4 heatproof glasses or teacups. Discard solids. Serves 4

    I use "Silk" brand soymilk in place of regular milk and I use brown sugar in place of refined sugar. For the tea I use "Taj Mahal" brand.

    My friend Miranda recommended I try this brand of chai. I did and I like it. Not as good as grinding your own spices, but sometimes you just don't have the time. The photo on the back of the box depicting a delicate hand dipping a teabag gives me the feeling of being elegant while drinking this tea. Maybe I'll bring out the white gloves for my next cup.
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    Miranda said...

    Polly, I have some Masala Chai tea bags if you're ever feeling lazy. I think it's substantial but then again I've never tried the real thing. I got them at the Indian grocery in Bradenton.

    Nice BLAHG!

    polly + dieter said...

    i went and bought the tea you are talking about. it is called "wagh bakri" brand. it is actually not bad. i have had it for a few mornings now and it is the best alternative to grinding your own spices that i have found. it doesn't have that dreadful artificial flavor.
    thanks mrd.

    The Stoner Gourmand said...

    Thank you so much for posting this! My copy of this recipe was torn into an unreadable scrap during my last move. My favorite chai recipe! Thanks again!

    polly + dieter said...

    Now that you mention it, i have not had this for a while. i think i'm going to make some tomrrow. it is delicious.