What this does not mean, is that I don’t drink tea. Au contraire, I enjoy this sophisticated drink almost daily. Being Kenyan, I have been spoilt for quality with the finest leaf hailing from the cool hills of Kericho – trust me, Yorkshire Gold has nothing on this. Being of Indian background, masala chai or Indian spiced tea made frequent appearance in our household when I was growing up. My mother still makes a mean cuppa that is irresistible, wholesome and incredibly refreshing.
Every now and then, I revisit this fond memory of my mother by making some masala chai. This drink is on the milky side and best enjoyed with a savoury biscuit (grain free in my case, of course). Perfect with petrichor and a 70s classic movie.
Now, this is nothing like the chai lattes that are sugary confections masquerading as the real deal. Masala chai is milky, not creamy, semi-sweet (if at all sweetened) and ideally slurped from the tiny saucer of a matching tiny cup.
It might seem daunting to put spices in tea but don’t be put off. All the spices play a role in aiding digestion, energising your body and mind, and producing an unmistakable aroma.
Chai is very popular in India and roadside and kiosk vendors often have regular customers that receive a delivery of the stuff twice a day. This video is a playful capture of a daily occurrence across many many parts of the sub-continent.
Here is the recipe. Keep in mind that the spices are a matter of preference and taste. I don’t like cloves and star anise in my chai others do. Some like it stronger, some like it sweet. Play with the recipe, make it your own.
You can buy premade masala chai spice at your local Indian grocer. It is usually pretty good and will save you some time. Doubtless though, there is nothing like a freshly prepared homemade batch.
Masala Chai – makes 4 cups
This recipe is sugar-free and Banting friendly.
You will need
- 500 mls whole milk
- 300 mls water
- 6 teaspoons good quality loose leaf black tea (Orange Pekoe, Darjeeling and Assam tea are good. I use the matchless Kericho Gold)
- 6 cardamom pods
- 5 peppercorns (I used white ones because that is what I had at hand)
- a generous pinch of nutmeg or mace shards
- a dash of cinnamon bark
- 2 lemongrass leaves, well bruised and coarsely chopped (leafy lemongrass is hard to find here so I used about a 2 inch piece of stalk)
- 1.5 inch piece of root ginger, grated
- Honey to taste (optional)
- Combine the milk and water in a pot and on medium heat, bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, smash the cardamon (pods and all) with the pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg in a mortar and pestle. It doesn’t need to be fine, a coarse powder will do nicely.
- Once the milk is about to boil, turn the heat right down and tip in the tea leaves and spice mixture. Stir it well and allow the tea to catch colour and heat up again for a couple of minutes.
- Stir in the ginger and lemongrass. It is important not to add it too early else the milk will split from the acid of the ginger.
- Turn up the heat gently and bring the chai close to a boil. As the chai rises, take the pot off the heat and let it settle for a minute.
- Strain through a fine tea strainer into four cups, sweeten if desired and serve immediately.
Note: honey should never be directly heated so save adding it until just serving. I prefer my chai unsweetened as the milk is plenty sweet for me.
- Slurp your masala chai from saucers if you dare. It really is the authentic way to enjoy it!
Please come back and share your experience.