Chai is the word for tea in many languages, so when we have plain tea we are technically drinking chai. Of course, that means the phrase “chai tea” is redundant. What we Westerners refer to as chai is actually masala chai, meaning spiced tea. As with most recipes that are enjoyed in various regions throughout India, there are many versions of masala chai that you may have run across. My friends who have been to India say that the masala chai they most often encounter is simply black tea and ginger with milk and lots of sugar. While I enjoy chai prepared that way on occasion, my favorite version is the one I offer you here. I like my chai with black tea, soy milk, and cane sugar, but this recipe also works well with a variety of “milks,” sweeteners, and teas.
I recommend enjoying it hot this time of year! And a little suggestion for you coffee drinkers out there: try a cup of half masala chai and half coffee and see what you think!
Makes about 4 cups.
2 tablespoons whole cardamom
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 whole stars of anise
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon slice fresh ginger
4 black tea bags
2 cups milk (or substitute soy milk)
2 cups water
1 to 3 tablespoons sweetener of choice
Combine all spices and tie them in a cheesecloth. Using a rolling pin or other heavy utensil, lightly pound the spices to crush them slightly. Place milk, water, and spices in the cheesecloth in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Bring water back to a boil, turn off, and add black tea. Let steep for 5 minutes, then strain. Add sweetener of choice and stir to dissolve. Serve warm, or chill over ice for a cooling afternoon treat.