Masala Chai

Masala chai has gained a lot of popularity in the West. However, it is a common drink in many Indian homes.

Masala means powdered spice or spice paste. It can be comprised of any spice in crushed form. Hence, garam masala means “hot” masala (it’s hot because the spices used in it generate heat in the body as per Ayurvedic medicine). Chai means tea.

There is a simple version of chai masala using only cardamom and a fancier version using spices such as fennel, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and black pepper in varying proportion. Every family makes its version of chai masala. All these ingredients have health benefits which I will compile into another blog discussing spices and their health benefits.

Here are my recipes for both versions of chai.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 7-10 minutes

Yield: 1 serving

Simple Masala chai

  • *1 cardamom pod, both pod, and seeds or 1/8 teaspoon powdered cardamom
  • *1 teaspoon loose leaf black tea or 1 tea bag – I like loose leaf tea. I use Brooke Bond, Red Label tea. There are other good tea brands like Vital or Wagh Bakri.
  • 2 cups of water
  • splash of milk, to taste – Use Soy milk to make it Vegan
  • sugar or honey to taste

Instructions for simple chai

  • Crush cardamom in a mortar and pestle or under a rolling pin. I, however, prefer to make a powder by putting several cardamom pods in a coffee grinder dedicated to grinding spices with a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar (the sugar helps break down the fiber in the pod so that it can be more easily powdered). I keep a jar of this powder in the refrigerator and use it for desserts, flavoring my homemade granola or in chai.
  • Boil the water in a small pan and add the tea.
  • If you are using whole, crushed cardamom put it in the water with the tea. If you made a powder, wait until the tea has boiled.
  • When the water comes to a rolling boil, add the milk, sugar (and 1/8 teaspoon of cardamom powder). Replace milk with Soy milk to make it Vegan.
  • Strain the tea into a cup. Enjoy!

Fancy masala chai ingredients

  • *1/2 stick cinnamon, broken into small pieces
  • *1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • *1 teaspoon whole cardamom
  • *2 teaspoons whole cloves
  • *1 teaspoon loose leaf black tea or 1 tea bag – I like loose leaf tea. I use Brooke Bond, Red Label tea. There are other good tea brands like Vital or Wagh Bakri.
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2-4 tablespoons milk, to taste
  • sugar or honey, to taste

Instructions for Fancy Masala chai

  • Grind the first four ingredients to a powder in a coffee grinder (dedicated to spice grinding) or small blender or a mortar and pestle. If you wish, you can multiply this recipe and save the excess in a glass jar in your refrigerator or freezer. I keep a jar of this powder in the refrigerator at all times.
  • Boil the water in a small pan and add the tea and chai masala.
  • When the water comes to a rolling boil, add the milk, sugar or honey.
  • Strain the tea into a cup. Enjoy!

Note: *These ingredients may be purchased at your local Indian grocer. For this reason, I have given you the name of the spice both in English and Hindi as that is the name (written phonetically in the English alphabet) you will find it under when you go shopping.

Spices impart specific flavors and aromas that enhance the overall flavor of the dish when used correctly. Moreover, they have a lot of health benefits. The list below specifies:

  • The name of the spice;
  • The flavor(s) it imparts;
  • How and when it may be used; and, finally,
  • It’s health benefits.

Kali Mirch (black pepper) – Sharp, spicy. Whole peppercorns can be added early on when using them to season cooking oil. However, the ground form is only used toward the end of cooking. Black pepper is used as a condiment and a food preservative. It is one of the components of Garam Masala and Chaat Masala. It is used whole to season doughs like Mathi (savory crip wafer). It is most often ground and used as a condiment in cooked foods. The ground form, when mixed with honey is used to relieve coughs and sore throats and improve breathing. Whole peppercorns are brewed into a tisane to effect the same benefits. For best results, don’t buy it preground as you’ll lose not only flavor but also many health benefits. BLACK PEPPER INCREASES THE BIOAVAILABILITY of certain other nutrients, especially, but not limited to CURCUMIN, WHICH IS THE ACTIVE INGREDIENT OF TURMERIC. It helps reduce swelling; is a known antibacterial; it’s an anti-inflammatory; and, is high in antioxidants. It is a natural pain killer. In ancient times, it was used in conjunction with salt to preserve meat. It helps drain the sinuses.

Dal Chini (Cinnamon)Sweet, sharp. Whole cinnamon is added as one of the first spices to season cooking oil. Indians use it for savory dishes, like rice and meat. Certain vegetarian dishes also benefit from it. It is also used as a component of Garam Masala and Chai Masala. Western cultures use it for desserts, bread and to flavor drinks such as apple cider. Cinnamon improves the body’s sensitivity to insulin, thus reducing blood sugar. It is an anti-inflammatory and helps reduce joint pain; it’s high in antioxidants (even more so than oregano and garlic); and, it is a natural food preservative. It also helps with weight loss.

Laung (cloves)Astringent, sharp. Whole cloves are added later into the cooking oil but before the powdered turmeric or cayenne pepper. Ground cloves as a component in Garam Masala and Chai Masala. Cloves are used in savory dishes such as rice pullaos or biriyanis and to flavor meat and vegetable gravies. Western cultures use cloves in desserts. Clove oil is used as a natural anesthetic for toothaches. Whole cloves are chewed as a breath freshener, they help improve liver health, and can kill off bacteria.

Hari Ilachi (green cardamom)Sweet, slightly astringent. Green cardamom can be added early on in the cooking process. It is used in both sweet and savory dishes. Green cardamom is a major component in Chai Masala. It is used to season drinks such as Mango Lassi. It complements dairy-based desserts. It is used in making biriyanis and lamb or goat curries. Cardamom is chewed whole as a breath freshener. It helps to add a little sugar in the blender to help grind cardamom into a fine powder. Cardamom is a natural bactericide and helps prevent cavities; helps lower blood pressure; aids in digestion; and, helps clean out the urinary tract, bladder, and the kidneys as it is a natural diuretic.

Written by Anju Kapur of Anju’s Table. All content and images on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use any of my images without my permission. Should you wish to share this recipe on your site, please add a link to this post as the source.

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