Although it has to be said that my primary focus is on Chinese teas, I do occasionally drink teas from other parts of the world.
Chai Masala is an Indian spiced tea. “Chai” is the Hindi word for the tea itself, which refers back to the Chinese word for tea, “cha“, via the Persian “chay“.
“Masala” means a mixture of spices, which in this case means root ginger, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon, although many variations exist.
The tea used is, more often than not, a robust black tea, such as an Assam, although here I use a Ceylon tea.
A more traditional way of preparing Chai Masala is to place water, milk, spices, a sweetening agent, and the tea together in the same pot, bring the mixture up to the boil, and then simmer for the appropriate time.
I don’t consume dairy products, however, and neither do I have a sweet tooth, so I tackle things a little differently.
I firstly prepare a spiced tea water, and then use that to steep the tea in a more conventional fashion.
To prepare a 1 litre pot of my version of Chai Masala I use…
- 3 heaped tsp. of Ceylon or Assam tea
- A 1½ inch long piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 tsp. whole cloves
- 2 tsp. cardamom seeds
- 2 good sized cinnamon sticks
Firstly, prepare your tea water. Place 1½ litres of filtered water into a suitably sized saucepan. Add the cardamom, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon. Bring up to a very low simmer, and then continue to simmer for about 15 minutes. The idea here is to extract all the flavour from the spices, but prevent the tea water from losing its oxygen. You’ll know when you’re getting there when the water takes on a nice colour, and you are able to smell the aroma from the spices.
Prepare your spice filter. I use a large mesh sieve placed over a 2 litre measuring jug.
Warm up your pot with a little extra hot water. Place the tea leaves in a paper tea filter and then place the tea filter into the pot.
Bring the spiced tea water to a rolling boil, and then quickly run it through your spice filter setup to separate water and spices. Quickly transfer the filtered spiced tea water to your pot to begin steeping the tea.
Infuse for 2 minutes. Remove the tea filter.
My own personal preference is to drink it “as is“, without anything added. This is one tea, however, that takes well to milk and sugar, although honey or coconut sugar works, too, as does almond or other nut-milks for those who are on a dairy-free diet.
As you might expect, this tea goes very well indeed with Indian food. The spices and the slight astringency compliment rich, spicy sauces.
If you are eating a hot curry, but are one of those unfortunate enough to be slightly less tolerant of spice induced heat, then the fat in any milk you might add to the Chai Masala would help to flush that wicked old capsaicin off of your poor, scalded palate.