A steaming cup of spiced, milky sweet black tea on a crisp fall morning...what could be better? I am fairly certain that Indians sweltering under the hot equator sun cannot enjoy their masala chai as much as a Minnesotan on a crisp and cool autumn day... :)
This recipe is for 4 cups of chai as the liquid will slightly evaporate during the process. If you want to make more or less, I generally use the following measurements of tea leaves and sugar per cup of liquid: 2-3 teaspoons loose leaf tea and 2-3 teaspoons sugar. I imagine that the quality of tea used will determine the amount you use, so adjust accordingly. Also note that you will need a very fine tea filter/tea sock for this preparation - preferably one made with muslin, like this. You can use tea bags as a substitute for loose leaf, but authentic taste requires loose leaf.
The wonderful thing about masala chai is that it is easily adaptable...make it with just cardamom, just ginger, or almost any combination of the below spices. In fact, every region and family seems to have their own variation of masala chai ... one family would never dream of adding cinnamon, where another family could not do without.
After a lengthy introduction, I give you my variation of masala chai. :)
2 quarter sized medallions of ginger, peeled
5 black peppercorns
6 crushed green cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 small piece of cinnamon stick (optional)
1 star anise (optional)
1/2 cup of water
4 cups of 2% milk (or better yet, whole milk!)
2-3 tablespoons sugar (or, per your taste)
2-3 tablespoons loose leaf black tea leaves (i.e orange pekoe)
Combine spices and water in a sauce pan and simmer over medium-lo heat for 5 minutes. Add the milk and bring to a boil. If you have time before needing to serve, reduce the heat and simmer the milk until very slightly reduced - 10-15 minutes should do it. Then, stir in tea leaves, reduce heat and simmer for another 4-5 minutes - carefully watch the color during this time to achieve desired strength of tea. I can only describe my "perfect" color as rosy, milky brown (how's that for an oxymoron?)! Filter the tea, add sugar to taste and serve steaming hot!
Note: I find that traditionally, my friends boil the tea leaves along with the milk, which allows them to serve the tea steaming hot. "Science" says that this will make the tea slightly bitter and suggests adding tea leaves only after the heat has been switched off. To be honest, I prefer the method of simmering tea leaves versus steeping, but please adapt which method you prefer.