Hello again! Please forgive my LONG absence. The semester is done. I had a fantastic time back in the classroom, but it’s also nice to have mental space for creative writing… and eating.
Now that I get the chance to write here again, I feel the need to warm up a bit, to flex that part of my brain that writes creatively rather than academically. That is part of why I named this post “Warming Up.” The other part is that it is COLD here! We’re back from our short winter wanderings (which were awesome, by the way…), but it doesn’t take long in our home warmed only by a wood burning stove to reach near arctic conditions if the stove isn’t in use. Just a couple of days without a fire burning or people cooking and it takes a solid day of big fires in that stove to make it possible (forget about pleasant) to walk on our wood floors without serious slippers. The floors will suck your life force right out of your soles.
So that first day back as we unpacked, kept the fire burning, and tried to find the rhythm of our schedule again, all I wanted was a nice pot of this spiced Masala Chai simmering away on the stove. Well… that and a nice scone to go with the chai… but one step at a time. A shopping trip is necessary before the scones can be a reality, but the chai is ready to go.
Masala Chai is a hot, spiced tea inspired by Indian culture. “Masala” more or less means “mixed” or in this case “mixed spice,” and “chai” means “tea.” So the next time you order a “chai tea” at your favorite coffee shop, know that you are ordering a “tea tea.” 😉 Making your own chai gives you a double bonus, not only do you actually know what spices (and no additives or preservatives) are in your tea, but it makes your house smell awesome as well.
Here are just a couple of thoughts about making yourself a lovely pot of chai. First, it might sound odd to add whole black peppercorns to your tea. Don’t worry. This won’t make your tea taste like pepper, but the peppercorns (like the cinnamon) add a nice, warm spice to the tea. It’s the warmth that you feel in the back of your throat that feels like it’s warming you from the inside out. Second, the spiced tea is finished with milk and brown sugar at the very end, so you can add more or choose to add less based on individual choice. I generally make mine with skim milk, but whole milk would make a wonderfully decadent version, or non-dairy milks could be substituted in as well. Coconut milk would be great, as would rice or almond milk. Just be aware that if you use sweetened rice milk, you might want to hold back on some of the brown sugar so the chai isn’t too sweet. Also almond milk can add a bit of bitterness to the chai, so you might want to add a bit more brown sugar to balance things out. Enjoy!
12 green cardamom pods
1 tablespoon fennel seed
12 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 ½ inch piece of ginger root
10 black peppercorns
7 cups water
6 bags of black tea (regular or decaffeinated)
3+ tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup milk (any kind will do: skim, whole, coconut, rice, etc. Just know that almond milk can add a bit of bitterness)
- Gather all of your ingredients so you’re ready to go, but don’t combine anything yet since two of your ingredients need to be prepped. Crush the cardamom pods with the back of a large spoon to release more flavor during boiling. There is no need to peel the ginger (you can if you prefer), but slice it thinly into matchsticks.
- Combine the cardamom, fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon stick, ginger root, peppercorns and water in a saucepan large enough to hold 8+ cups of liquid.
- Bring the spice mixture to a boil and let it bubble away vigorously for 5 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and let it steep for 10 minutes.
- Add the tea bags to the pan, place it back on the heat and bring to a boil. Once bubbling reduce the heat and simmer the tea gently for 5 minutes.
- Strain the mixture into a heat-resistant bowl, discard the spices and then return the tea to the saucepan.
- Stir in the brown sugar and milk. Taste the masala chai and add more sugar if you prefer it sweeter. Serve immediately.
- Left over chai can be stored for a few days in the refrigerator and reheated on the stove or in a microwave. This chai is great with a lightly sweet scone, like my Blueberry Cinnamon Scones.
Click here for a printable version of the Masala Chai recipe.