Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Masala Chai

I learned recently that what I (and most Americans) call Chai tea is not only redundant, but non-descriptive. Chai is the word for "tea" in the Middle East/India/Asia. Pretty much it's just another English misrepresentation. When we say Chai, we really mean Masala Chai, or Spice Tea. What exactly those spices are seems to be defined by location and culture. There is no set "recipe" for Masala Chai. The only spice that I can find common between all the recipes and articles I looked through is cardamom. I don't know that I've ever considered cardamom by itself, so when I opened up the jar of it that I bought at the grocery store, I was amazed. It is the smell of chai! So in my opinion, any masala chai should be based on cardamom. After that, you name a spice, somebody puts it in their masala chai. I gathered all the spices around that could be used for a homemade chai - peppercorn, cardamom, anise, cinnamon, clove, ginger, and nutmeg, and I used them all! With a roiboos base, it made a very fragrant and lovely mix. (Roiboos is a caffeine free South African plant that has a flavor similar to black tea. It is, therefor, an excellent substitute for any black tea based tea.)

I was doing this late at night, other wise I would have thought about getting a better fabric for the tea bag, but the best I had around was muslin. While the muslin made a very pretty tea bag, it is unfortunately too thick a fabric for a tea bag. I had to steep the tea for a veeeerrryyy long time, and even then it was only a faint flavor. I think next time I'll also use more spices in one tea bag. When I was able to get a cuppa with a stronger flavor I was quite pleased.
It's going to take some more experimenting to find a combination of spices, amounts and ratios, that I'm satisfied with, but overall this was a fun first attempt. I liked mixing the spices, seeing the flavors and scents and colors come together. I'm excited to experiment more with homemade teas - I think I've found my Christmas gifts for this year!


Lena said...

This is so cool Christi! I am not usually a fan of Chai, but I do like the smell. Maybe between the two of us we could figure out what it is that I dont like and make a tea with out it!

Lena said...

Oh, and its official, I work till 4 next saturday, so make sure no one leaves till after I get there!

Steve and Annie said...

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shopruche.com said...

oWWW when you perfect your chai tea, please share the recipe! I love chai tea. I always resort to buying the powered ones in the can at Trader Joes. They taste decent, but I'm sure the real thing is a ton times better!