Masala chai to lift a chill

My son's girlfriend, Nafesha, brought me a bag of her homemade masala chai powder. As I prepared a blissful cup of the sweet, spicy, milky tea this morning, I thought you might enjoy it too.

(In India, "chai" is the generic word for tea, and "masala chai" means "spiced tea".)

It's easy to whirr a batch of the masala powder so you can have chai anytime! Once you taste your own, those too-sweet, weakly-spiced Starbucks syrups will lose their allure. Like any spice mix, the freshness of the spices counts, so if yours have the dust of decades on the lids, it's worth replacing them.

1. Make the mix:

Yield: About a half-cup. Use a few generous pinches per cup of tea.

Mix by weight to make about 4 oz (115g):
1 1/2 oz (45g) shelled green or black cardamom

1/2 oz (15g) cinnamon bark

Add some of the following as yo
u like, to make up the rest of the weight, but be sure to use clove and ginger:
Whole cloves

Ginger, peeled and cut in slices

Allspice, cracked
Star anise


Bay leaf

Mace and nutmeg (OK to use powdered)

Whole black peppercorns (hot- use more if you like it hot!)

Options: Dried orange peel, vanilla bean (these are Western additions but they're good, too)

Grind to a powder in a coffee mill or spice grinder, store in an airtight container. (It will also wo
rk to simply break the spices, but I find it easier to grind.)
Sample it and adjust; this is like sourdough starter, you can keep adding and adapting the spicing.

Shortcut Recipe:
Mix Chinese five-spice powder half and half with ground cardamom. Not as good but better than chain masala chai.

2. Make Masala Chai:
Add a generous pinch of the powder per cup to any tea (black tea, such as Assam, is the traditional choice), brew, and strain. Add steamed milk to the tea in a ratio you like (I use amost 1:1) and sweeten with sugar or honey. (Steam milk in the microwave.) The drink should have the richness of a good cup of hot chocolate.

Chai for Six, Premixed

You can also premix a quart of masala chai concentrate, store in your fridge for up to a week, and just add steamed milk.
This recipe, from Ellen's Kitchen, serves six. The site also has a instructions for chai for 20.

To make the base:

Simmer together for 15 minutes on the stove top or 20 minutes (total) in the microwave:
3 tablespoons ground chai spices 1/2 cup dark brown sugar 4 1/2 cups water Remove from heat; stir in 2 tablespoons black tea leaves. Cover, brew 5 minutes, strain. You can refrigerate this base up to a week.

To serve:

Heat the base, add 1/2 to an equal amount of heated milk. You may preheat milk 5 minutes in microwave - it foams. Stir well, serve with a sprinkle of cardamom.


Anonymous said…
These recepies sound really good! I'm going to try a chai tea this weekend.

Thank you.
Anonymous said…
This sounds great, but I'll have to turn up the air-conditioning to truly enjoy it!
Duchesse said…
Cybill: This is drunk in the hottest parts of India! Though counterintuitive, it is cooling.
Anonymous said…
I call the basic recipe 'Kashmir Tea'. The first time I tried it? In 1985 on a houseboat on the Dal Lake, Srinigar, deepest Kashmir!

The second time I tried it? In an office in London in 1988, brought in by a wonderful half Indian female colleague (probably one of the most elegant women I've ever known) who would bring a huge flask in on cold winter mornings to share with colleagues.

Such memories and all prompted by an innocent cup of tea!
What a lovely blog. Thank you for allowing me a little peek into your world. Please,if you find yourself with an extra moment, have a little peek into my world as well.
I loved the chai tea recipe!!

Steady On,
Reggie Girl
Frugal Scholar said…
Thanks so much! This recipe warms my frugal heart.
Anonymous said…
My eldest is a spiced chai fan so we will be stocking up on the essentials on our next shop to try this out.
Duchesse said…
Reggie Girl, thanks for the invitation, I have indeed visited!
Anjela's Day said…
I must try this- my daughter(home from school) and I have tea at all hours! This would be a nice recipe to share with her.
What a sweet girlfriend your son has- to do that!!
Thanks for passing it on. I will let you know when I make it.
Anonymous said…
I like it without the cinammon and with less clove. The Indian stores now have black tea packaged with cardamom already to go in tea bags and they are a great substitute for the whole works if you are in a hurry. One bag strong black tea, one bag cardamom tea, half water, half milk. Yum.
Duchesse said…
sjcyogi: I would go light on the clove too, but you can fiddle with it once you have a batch. I've also had masala chai tea bags but prefer the perfume of the spices.

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