History of Traditional Masala Chai Tea
Tea plants have been growing wild in the Assam region of India for thousands of years. Earlier tea was used as herbal medicine by Indians, and the recreational consumption of tea became popular only in the 20th century through British influence. At first, tea was consumed in a British manner with only a little milk and sugar added to it.
Later Indians developed their own version by adding more milk and various spices to their tea. In India, the street vendors who make chai are called Chai Wallahs, and each one of them has their own unique way of making the chai. Masala chai means “mixed-spiced tea” and today it’s not popular only in India, but all over the world.
The Ratio of Milk and Water
You can also use a different ratio of milk and water depending on how rich and thick you like your chai. It’s even possible to use just a minimal amount of water for getting the flavor out of the spices and then after that just add a lot of milk. Or you can leave the water out completely, but then you have to be careful to not burn the milk, so you have to use low heat and stir it constantly.
Iced Chai Tea
There are also several chilled versions of chai. These are more common in the United States than in India.
Sometimes if I make a big batch of hot chai tea and there is something left, I just pour it into a pitcher and refrigerate it. Then it can be enjoyed later in a glass with ice.
Authentic Masala Chai Tea
One nice thing about making chai is, that while brewing it in a pot, the aroma of spices will fill the air and make you anticipate the delicious drink soon to be enjoyed.
In India, it is common to sip chai throughout the day. It is consumed with food, or as a dessert with pastries or dried fruits. I usually drink chai as it is, or after a meal.
How to make
Here is how to prepare the chai tea:
Crack the cardamom pods, cloves, and peppercorns (if you are using them) and put them in a pot. Add thinly sliced ginger, cinnamon sticks, and black tea. If you are using star anise and fennel seeds, you can also add them now. Add the water.
Bring to a low boil and cover. Let it steep for at least 10 minutes on low heat. It will be even better if you leave it on a very low heat for an hour or two. This allows a proper infusion of all the flavors.
Add milk and sugar and stir it while heating until it’s simmering hot again. Let it simmer for a few minutes to allow the milk to bring out the oil from the spices.
Pour into mugs or glasses through a strainer and enjoy!
List of ingredients for 6 servings of Traditional Masala Chai Tea:
3 cups (7 dl) of water
3 cups (7 dl) of whole milk (or almond, cashew, soy, oat or another plant-based milk)
5 tablespoons of Assam loose leaf black tea (or 3 to 4 tea bags)
1 inch (2,5 cm) piece of ginger, sliced
10 whole cloves
15 green cardamom pods
1 1/2 (about 2 inches) of cinnamon stick
5–10 teaspoons of brown sugar (or honey, or other sweeteners)
15 black peppercorns
5 star anises
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds