Derived from the Chinese chá, “chai” means tea in much of the world, including Asia, Eastern Europe, parts of Africa and Brazil. Masala chai is an aromatic blend of black or green tea with warming spices. Sugar and milk often are included, as well.
Travel to India, Nepal and Tibet, where masala chai originated, and you’ll likely see vendors peddling the tasty brew on street corners or at train stations. According to Ayurvedic tradition, masala chai boosts the immune system, enhances metabolism, relieves stress, aids digestion and sharpens the mind.
You can find hundreds of chai recipes associated with different locales, restaurants and even families. Preparation methods vary, too—some aficionados insist on boiling the tea, spices and milk together, while others take a gentler approach, briefly steeping the tea leaves and spices in hot water, then adding hot milk and sweetener last.
The following recipes are a twists on this long-loved delight. Experiment by adding fennel seeds, coriander seeds, nutmeg, star anise, and lemon or orange peel to create your own favorite blend.
- 2 cups cold water
- One 2-inch piece cinnamon stick, broken up in pieces
- 2 heaping teaspoons black tea
- Seed of 3 cardamom pods
- One ¼-inch-thick slice fresh ginger
- 3 whole cloves
- 2 black peppercorns
- ½ cup coconut milk or cream
- 1 to 2 tablespoons honey
1. Bring water to a boil in small saucepan. Add cinnamon, tea, and spices; cover. Boil for 2 minutes and remove from heat. Steep for 5 minutes. Add honey and coconut cream.
2. Pour mixture through fine wire-mesh strainer into a teapot, discarding solids. Garnish with cinnamon sticks.