Sunday, January 18, 2009

Blend Your Own Masala Chai Loose Leaf Tea

Masala Chai (“spiced tea”) is a popular beverage that hails from India, and has been on the rise steadily here in the United States. This tasty beverage is made by brewing black tea with a medley of Indian spices and herbs. In parts of India and South Asia, “chai wallahs” are everywhere, much like America’s favorite addiction- Starbucks, which adorns every street corner.

How do you enjoy your Masala Chai? Do you just add water and drink it straight, or do prefer steamed milk, and a bit of sugar? Truly, it’s a personal matter. There are many variations of masala chai, and in India, most are based on a family recipe passed down through generations. Traditionally, the preparation is to simmer together water, milk and black loose leaf tea mixed with a sweetener, and whole spices. You could easily make this preparation in the comfort of your own home; thankfully, I am all set, as I enjoy the Tea Drinker’s blend, Organic Chic Chai! Incidentally, we tried many blends before finding right fit for Drink the Leaf.

To make masala chai at home, you will basically need four ingredients: tea, sweetener, milk, and spices.

Tea: Use a strong black loose leaf tea of high quality. You know where to shop:

Sweetener: White or brown sugar, and, honey will work, too.

Milk: Use whole milk if you are in the mood to party, but 1-2% is fine. The fat content will give your tea a wonderful texture, and silky mouth feel.

Spices: This is where the creativity comes into play. Its your call based on the spices that you prefer. The popular ones are: cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, peppercorn, and cloves. I like a hint of vanilla bean added to the blend. Not a traditional spice for this beverage, but one that you see creeping into this beverage more, and more.

Preparation: Heat a blend of milk and water( ¼ to ½ parts) with tea, spices, and sweetener. Bring to just near boiling. Strain. Inhale the enticing aromatics, take a sip and sit back and dream.

Masala Chai is a great beverage to enjoy right now, especially if you live on the East Coast where the average winter temperature seems to hover around 35 degrees or below! This tea is comforting, rich and soothing. Since the Tea Drinker and I live on the West coast, we drink ours naked- no milk, no sugar. Like I said, it’s personal.

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