Masala Chai

This morning was a chai morning… it had been rainy and cold yesterday, and was just warming up this morning but still a little chilly.  The gingery, warm, sweet elixir was calling out from the kitchen to me on my yoga blankets.  Last night I did the rare thing… I was out until 10pm, at a dance performance, so the bit of caffeine balanced with the milk and cardamom is just a perfect extra umph!

Let me start with a little chai knowledge before we get to the recipe…

  • Chai means tea.  So there is no need to call it “chai tea”… that is like saying “tea tea”.
  • Chai in India is not complicated.  It’s black tea, milk and sugar.  In the cold season there will be ginger (adrak in Hindi) and if you ask for “Elaichi Chai” you’ll get cardamom.   In some regions you may find black pepper, lemongrass or mint added as well.  If you want black tea, it’s “Kali Chai”… otherwise expect milk.
  • What you won’t see in traditional chai: green tea, honey, soymilk, clove, star anise, corn syrup, stevia or synthetic ingredients of any kind.
The magic of traditional  chai is in its has 5 ingredients – a significant number in the Vedic tradition.  There are 5 Great Elements that make up everything in existence – the Panca Mahabhutas.  So each element of chai represents these.
  1. Milk – akasha (the space that contains everything)
  2. Tea – vayu (the air that moves, blows and changes)*
  3. Massala (spice) – agni (the fire that illumines and transforms)
  4. Water – jala (the water that softens, expands, contracts and takes the shape of it’s container)
  5. Sugar – prithvi (the earth that supports and binds)
*My new favorite tea for chai is Taylors of Harrogate Pure Assam Tea.  It’s very strong – one tea bag per cup of chai you are making is plenty!! You can even go down to less than that – say you are making 4 cups of chai, you can get away with only using 3 tea bags.  Usually, I’m in favor of loose-leaf tea over tea bags, however, this is really the best! The tea may seem a bit pricy, however, the box is jam packed with tea bags and will last you awhile.
Chai Recipe – Makes 2 Cups of Chai
  • 2 Cups water
  • 1 Cup whole organic milk
  • 2 Tb loose assam tea
  • 1 tsp black cardamom seeds (removed from green husk)
  • 1 small cinnamon stick (or a piece of cinnamon stick)
  • Thumb size piece of fresh ginger, chopped roughly
  • 2 TB organic cane sugar
In a medium size pot, bring the water to a boil with the fresh ginger.
Boil 5 minutes
Add the tea, milk, and cardamom, cinnamon stick and start at medium heat to bring to a slow boil.  bring slowly to a boil (start at medium and slowly bring up to boil).
As soon as it boils, turn off, stir in the sugar and let rest 5 minutes.
Strain in a stainless steel strainer & serve.

Alternatives… okay, okay, if you really must 🙂

You can exchange the milk for almond milk, rice milk or oat milk.  You can exchange the sugar for maple syrup or raw agave.  If you prefer honey (best for kapha types and in the winter and spring) – use local, raw, unpasturized honey and add it after you’ve poured it into your cup and it has cooled to a drinking temperature.

For herbal chai… use Far Leaves’ tea blend .  In this case, add the tea & spice blend to the water & milk and bring it all to slow boil together, then sweeten and let rest 5 minutes before straining.

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