As the colder weather comes so does my quest for the perfect chai tea. This year my quest is amplified as I miss traveling in India and the days spent enjoying chai tea just about everywhere. On the train you hear the chai whalla hollering ‘chai, chai, chai’ and you can get a small paper cup of chai for 5 rupees or eleven U.S. cents. While shopping for thangkas, scarfs, singing bowls and jewels the shop owners always offered us tea from a near by chai stand. I also miss enjoying a cup of chai tea with our new friends as we listened to their stories of how they came to be where they are.
Often we liked the chai sold at the street stands best. We thought it must be because it is steeping and boiling all day long or maybe it was the buffalo milk which as it boils a thick but delicious film that collects on the surface. So we began to ask exactly what do the chai whallas put in the tea as it just doesn’t taste like it does back home! To our surprise, the answer came from a box – T-Masala – ‘hygienic, flavorful and tasty’ powdered spices!
So my challenge has begun, to create the flavor of T-Masala using all fresh organic spices. Here is my latest:
6 cups water
1 tbsp cardamom seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp black pepper corns
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp ginger powder or 1/2 inch fresh
1 cup whole milk
1-2 tsp or bags of black tea
sugar to taste
In a large pot bring the water and all of the spices* to a boil for 5-10 minutes. Reduce the heat and add 1 cup of milk, bringing back up to a boil, being careful not to burn the milk. Let simmer 5 more minutes. Turn off the heat and add the black tea and sugar. Let steep for 2-5 minutes then strain through a small wire strainer to serve.
You can get several steepings out of the spices. At home I just keep adding water and milk, bringing it back up to a boil and enjoying chai all day long.
*If you grind the spices in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, the tea will be more flavorful. I have a coffee grinder that I use only for spices.