We fell in love with masala chai in India. How could we not? Tiny thimbles of the milky tea are dolled out on almost every street corner, the makeshift cups warm in your hands, a creamy film — the telltale sign of good milk (likely from the cow lolling beside you!) — forming across the top before even touching your lips. Nowhere have we experienced the calming moment of sharing a cup of tea as profoundly as among the chaos of Delhi streets.
More than once we were told that chai is taken four times a day – in the morning when one awakes, again at 11, then at 4 and finally, before sleep. Intensely spiced and fiercely sweet, it is a bracing kind of thing, fortifying the day with warmth.
The view from our kitchen is anything but chaotic today, as we watch the snow fall, a “bombogenesis” they call it. But it is cold, and contemplative — a chai kind of day.
We had the great fortune of taking two cooking classes while in India, with Rekha in Jodhpur and then again in Udaipur with Sashi. Both started their lessons with chai, and we have been making it at home ever since.
A few moments at the stove, and voila!
(PS. Masala chai lends itself spectacularly well to ice cream, too.)
Note: The best tea to use here is Assam, though Darjeeling or English Breakfast would work as The key is to use fresh leaves, not tea bags.
Note: You could make this with a lesser-fat milk, but where’s the fun in that? Alternatively, you could substitute 1/4 cup of the whole milk for water, if you find this recipe too creamy.
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp black tea leaves
2 green cardamom pods
3 black peppercorns
A 1/2 inch cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1. Toast the cardamom, peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon until aromatic. Grind roughly in a mortar and pestle.
2. Bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat. Add the tea, ground spices and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, and immediately reduce the heat to low, using a ladle to mix and aerate the tea, like so:
3. Simmer for four to five minutes, stirring thus every so often, especially when the tea threatens to boil over.
4. Remove from heat, and pour the tea through a fine mesh strainer into mugs.
5. Add sugar to taste, and enjoy!