Call me a late bloomer, but it wasn’t until I went and experience chai in India first hand that I fell in love with it. Now, there’s not a day that goes by that I either make myself a cup or pine for it.
Yes, I’ve had it numerous times here in Australia, but somehow, either it was overly sweetened, too bland, or maybe I had just never truly “connected” with it. It was almost like, I met Chai for the first time, at age 30 when I went to India. I can’t believe I lived so many years without it! Masala Chai filled a void I never knew I had until those very first sips.
What is Masala?
In India, masala means spice, and chai means tea. Spiced Tea.
And that is precisely what Masala Chai is -black tea infused with fragrant spices, typically served with milk.
Here in Australia, we often call this “chai tea” or a chai tea latte. But in India, saying “chai tea” is like saying “tea tea”. So that’s why in India, one says Masala Chai – or spiced tea. Good to know, right?
Ingredients in masala chai:
There are usually four components in Masala Chai, and the secret here is to find the perfect balance between them.
- Black tea
What tea is used for Chai?
- The base of the Masala Chai is usually black tea. Most robust, rich, dark black teas will work well in Masala Chai- robust enough to hold up to all the flavorful spices. The tea need not be expensive.
- Assam, Darjeeling is often used in India because it is grown there.
What makes Masala Chai authentic, is the use of spices. For sure, every person in India probably has their unique combination of spices they prefer in their masala chai, and there is no “right” way. It is very subjective.
What spices are used in masala chai?
- Chai Wallahs- the street vendors who make masala chai, all have a unique blend of chai spices as well- and as you can probably guess, I was obsessed with watching them make their creations.
- These are the chai spices I saw used the most in India: Fresh ginger, cardamom pods, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns and star anise.
- I especially love the green cardamom pods I picked up in India. So here is a good starting point for you but feel free to improvise and fine-tune your taste.
Lightly crush the whole spices before tossing them into a pot of water with the black tea.
I prefer to use high quality organic, loose black tea. Use about a heaping tablespoon per serving.
You can also use a black tea bag or two.
Bring one cup of water with the spices and loose tea, just to a boil- then turn off the heat and let steep for 9-10 minutes. Boiling the tea will make it bitter, so bring it to a boil.
Once it steeps, add the milk.
What type of milk to use in masala chai?
- In India, whole milk is typically used.
- I’ve been substituting almond milk and oat milk with beautiful results.
- If you like a strong masala chai- add one full cup of milk. If you like a thinner chai, you can cut the milk with water – for example, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup water.
- So, in a nutshell, if you like a more decadent, thicker tea, use more milk (or even use all milk instead of the water), simmering the spices and tea right in the milk. Or, if you like a lighter masala chai, splice the milk with water. Up to you- a personal preference.
Bring the milk and tea just to a boil again, then add sweetener.
How to sweeten masala chai:
- The fourth component of Masala Chai is the sweetener. In India, jaggery or cane sugar is typically used.
- I prefer sweetening Masala Chia with maple syrup or honey instead of sugar. But any sugar or sugar alternative will work here.
- Sweeten to your taste. For a large 8 ounce serving, use about 2-3 teaspoons of maple syrup – to balance the spices and black tea.
- Find your balance.
Strain and serve.
And yes, it is very typical to serve Chai in a glass (vs. a mug) in India, leaving some room at the top to hold the glass.
And there you have it, masala chai as they make in India. A delicious morning beverage or afternoon pick-me-up.
Masala Chai Recipe
Hibiscus Tea House
How to make authentic Masala Chai, like they do in India, using whole spices.
5–7 green cardamon pods
3–4 whole cloves
1-2 Star Anise (optional)
1 Cup of Water
2–3 slices ginger (or more! skins ok)
½ cinnamon stick
1–2 tablespoons loose leaf black tea, (or 1–2 tea bags) Or sub decaf black tea
1 cup milk of your choice- organic whole milk, almond milk, oat milk, soy milk, cashew milk, hemp milk ( I like unsweetened, vanilla-flavored almond or oat milk)
2-3 teaspoons of your choice in sweetner
Lightly crush cardamom pods, whole cloves, star anise and pepper corns and place in a pot with 1 cup of water. Add ginger, cinnamon and black tea. I like to muddle the ginger a bit right in the pot.
Bring to a boil and turn the off heat (don’t continue to boil the tea, it may get bitter) and let it steep at least 10 minutes…. or for several hours. The longer, the more flavor!
Add your choice of milk. Bring to a simmer once more, turn off the heat.
Stir in your choice of sweetener, taste, adding more sweetener to taste. If it tastes bitter, you need more sweetener. Strain into a chai glass or mug.
Feel the love. xoxo
TEA: Any dark, rich, robust black tea will work best here. Assam, Darjeeling, etc. You can also make the tea part as strong as you like. Start with one tablespoon loose leaf tea and add more according to your taste. Use loose-leaf or tea bags.
SPICES: Whole spices are preferred here but in a pinch feel free to add or sub ground spices to taste. You can add the ground spices at the end if you like.
MILK RATIO: Instead of the full cup of milk, I typically use a ratio of ½ water and ½ milk. Many prefer the richness of a full cup milk, so feel free to adjust to your taste.
Calories 103, Carbs 17.7 grams, Fat 3.1 grams, Protein 1.9 grams, Cholesterol 0 milligrams, Sodium 200 milligrams