Apparently, the spices typically used to prepare masala chai are pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and ginger (1).
Partly why I didn't include any measurements is because I never use any, and I do everything according to taste. Two things to remember: there is no standard recipe for chai (everyone's recipe is unique). Additionally, any recipe you read is the author's best approximations. So when you prepare a recipe, you may have to add little more of this, and a little less of that. People also have different preferences, so don't be afraid to adjust recipes to your liking!
In any case, here are my tips/advice on making masala chai:
- Nut/seed milks- it's possible, delicious, and healthy!
*I don't drink cow's milk that often. I usually use soy milk, and it turns out very well!
*I made masala chai for Slow Food BU's potluck last week (which unfortunately was cancelled due to the weather), and actually made the chai out of unsweetened almond milk because a friend was allergic to soy. I was really happy with the result- I put the spices in with approximately the same ratios that I do for soy milk, and the almond milk masala chai came out great!
*Note- I tried making masala chai out of homemade sesame seed milk once, and it did not come out very well. When heated, the milk separated and was somewhat grainy. I do not know if this doesn't happen to the seed milks that are sold in stores, because they are typically homogenized/pasteurized.
- *If you decide to make masala chai out of regular cow's milk (the traditional way!), the ratio of spices you put in will differ (different spices dilute out at different rates, and the rates will also vary according to the type of milk, because each milk has a different chemistry). You will also need to boil for a longer time and put in more spices, because the flavor of cow's milk is stronger than that of nut/seed milks.
*It takes me quite awhile to get my chai made out of cow's milk to taste right. I'm so used to making masala chai out of soy milk, that making it out of cow's milk is a whole new game!
SPICES AND TIME
- You can make homemade masala chai in as little as 10-15 minutes. However, to make it this quickly, you will need to add more spices, in a little different ratios than if you slow-cooked it, and you might not be getting the most use out of your spices. See the section "save your spices!" below.
- I enjoy the process of boiling the tea for a long time (at least an hour). It's relaxing and makes me appreciate my chai even more! I also feel that it gives the masala chai more depth and complexity, and I get more use out of the spices this way.
- Save yourself some time and use up your spices- make a big batch of masala chai at once! You can refrigerate your leftovers and warm them up wherever, and whenever you want! (Or better yet, share it! :) )
- The newer and higher quality the spices are, the better flavor they will impart and the stronger their flavors will be (they will be more expensive, but will lead to less cooking time). Or if you have older or less quality spices, you will just have to boil longer or use more spices. Some places to buy spices: Whole Foods (check out their bulk section!), the Harvest Co-Op in Cambridge and Jamaica Plain (bulk section!), and Christina's Spice and Specialty Foods in Cambridge (even though it will be more expensive from here).
- Buying all of the spices for chai is expensive!!! Save your used spices in a container and put it in the fridge. Then whenever you're ready to make your next batch of chai (hopefully within a week or so- the spices might not last much more than that), you'll be prepared! You may need to add various amounts of different spices when you make your next batch, however.
- When I was at the farm, we actually stuck the whole pot (spices included) in the fridge for the next day (we made it everyday)! We were so addicted. :)
- If you don't have the time or the spices- you can buy chai tea bags or tea mixes in stores. They typically have black tea leaves and some of the common spices added to it. Like any tea, you boil water, add the tea bag, and add milk and sugar as desired, and there you have it! Chai in less than 5 minutes! However, these tea bags or pre-sold mixes will typically be less complex and will not have the same depth and intensity of home-made masala chai!
- Looking for a caffeine-free version? Make masala chai w/o the tea leaves, and you have spiced milk. It's delicious and GREAT before bed!!! MmMmMm...
- Someday I want to try making chai/spiced milk w/ rosehips. That will be fun!
Have fun!!! ^.^