Masala Tea or Chai
Winter is here and a hot cup of Masala Tea or Chai in your hand can warm up the cockles of your heart. Cheers! North Indians can live without food but not without their chai.I have seen them guzzling down endless cups of tea in a day.
As kids, we would ask for tea when we saw that only adults had tea, and my mom would say,” You will turn dark like the tea so you should not drink it!” But if I had a cold then I had to gulp down this decoction called “Karha” she would force down my throat. This karha was nothing other than Masala chai, which literally meant “mixed-spice tea”; it is a flavored beverage made by brewing black tea with a mixture of aromatic Indian spices and herbs. It was a grandmother’s recipe passed down generations, but it has become popular worldwide and is a feature in many coffee and tea house menus. Traditionally it is prepared by a decoction of green cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, ground cloves, ground ginger, and black peppercorn together with black tea leaves. My mom would always add fennel seeds and fresh basil or Tulsi leaves. Most Indian homes have a tulsi plant in their courtyard. Tulsi is said to have therapeutic properties to reduce fever or cure a cold.
That one cup of tea can wake you up and how, as the gentle warmth soothes your soul. Tea actually has healing properties which increase if you add a slice of ginger to it. This was the hot favorite on a rainy day with my mother to cure my cold or when I had a fever. Of course, there isn’t a known cure to the common cold, but ginger is known to soothe and make it bearable and maybe even speed up recovery. I would kick up a fuss to drink it and I was given biscuits to dunk in it and eat!
Ginger tea actually helps by drying up a running and dripping nose and expels phlegm from the respiratory tract. All those years of drinking it under duress and now that I am lactose intolerant, I have this karha or Masala Tea or Chai whenever I feel like having something soothing and hot.
I do not make it very strong like my mom, but I do love the burst of flavours playing in it. I use demerara sugar instead of the regular refined one. My daughter-in-law as other westerners calls it Chai tea! The English left us addicted to milky tea but we have brought about our own variations to it and now Masala Chai is popular the world over. Tea is a very simple beverage but strangely there is no fixed recipe or preparation method for masala chai and every family have their own versions of the tea.
Recipe for Masala Tea or Chai
2 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups water
1⁄2 inch ground ginger
4 fresh basil leaves
1 mint leaf to garnish
1 teaspoon demerara sugar or regular sugar
1 teaspoon black tea
My mortar and pestle
In a small mortar, roughly crush the ginger, basil leaves, cardamom pods and cinnamon
Heat the water in a saucepan and transfer the crushed spices into it once the water is coming to a boil.
Let the masala steep in the hot water long enough to extract intense flavour.
Add the tea leaves and once you see the lovely colour, remove the pan from the heat.
Add the sugar to the cup. Strain the Masala Tea or Chai into your favourite mug and garnish with a mint leaf.( I love fresh mint leaves)
Go to your favourite chair and savour every sip of this ambrosial potion.
Note: You can add milk or cream to the tea if you want to.
Showing off my fancy Tibetan mug with a lid 🙂