Quick and Easy Masala Chai
Masala chai is a powerful blend of tea, herbs and spices cherished for centuries in India. Some people think it’s too complicated to make but I will show you a quick and easy authentic masala chai you can make at home any time.
Masala means ‘mixture of spice’ in Hindi. Chai rhymes with ‘pie’. Chai is the word for tea in many parts of the world. So when we mistakenly say “chai tea” in America, we are really saying “tea tea.” Masala chai is simply tea (chai) with a spice mix (masala).
This sweet spiced tea from India is made from rich black tea and spices. Each blend is unique but most include cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and pepper. Traditional Indian chai spice blends are designed to promote health and peace of mind.
Tea is to the body as music is to the soul.” – Earlene Grey
The more I learn about chai the more benefits I find in this delicious blend of tea, herbs and spices. It has transformed a love of tea for many.
My oldest daughter is not a big fan of plain black tea but she loves masala chai. I first discovered chai when I read a book by the co-founder of Oregon Chai, Tede McMillen titled “Nirvana in a Cup.” The book was later re-titled “Million Dollar Cup of Tea”.
The story takes you on the journey of a mother-daughter team. It describes how they created and grew a beverage brand from a kitchen recipe to a $75 million-dollar company in ten years. It’s a great read if you’re interested in food entrepreneurship.
So I introduced my daughter to chai and since she loved it so much I would just buy the tea concentrate. Then when I tried other brands of chai, I found they never really tasted quite as good. So eventually I decided to learn how to make my own masala chai.
All chai spice blends use cardamom. It is the most important and also the most expensive spice in the mix. In fact, cardamom is one of the most expensive spices in the world. The good news is you don’t need a lot of it to flavor your tea.
Cardamom is revered for it’s medicinal properties dating back to Egypt’s Ebers Papyrus in 1550 BCE. The Ebers Papyrus is the Egyptian document of herbal knowledge and is one of the oldest and most important medical documents of the time.
Indigenous to the hills of southern India, cardamom is used in many recipes for its’ sweet and savory wellness qualities. Cardamom is known as a digestive aid and appetite stimulant. It also acts as a diuretic and antioxidant. The seed is chewed as a breath refresher.
Cardamom is a good source of Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fiber, iron and manganese.
An interesting tidbit – the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Arabs all thought cardamom contained aphrodisiac qualities and added it to their love potions. I’ve read that it helps with erectile dysfunction. Maybe that’s why it’s so expensive?!
Chai spices are loaded with major nutrition and without the extra calories. Nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger all have excellent health benefits, but as an added bonus, chai also contains the single most antioxidant-packed substances on the planet—like cloves and cinnamon. Add the spice mix to tea and you compound your antioxidants.
Black tea – Tea is high in polyphenols, a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants have proven health benefits to cardiovascular health. I recommend using a Nilgiri Tea for this recipe.
Black tea contains an amino acid called l-theanine, which is unique to tea and has some very interesting effects on the brain. L-theanine increases alpha brain waves inducing a calm and deeply relaxed state. Combined with the caffeine, which is about half the amount found in coffee, the overall effect is a focused calm.
Clove – Often used for upset stomach. It is also a good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Calcium and Iron, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Magnesium and Manganese.
Cinnamon – Contains large amounts of highly potent polyphenol antioxidants. Some studies show that the antioxidants in cinnamon have anti-inflammatory activity.
Black Pepper –One tablespoon of ground black pepper contains moderate amounts of vitamin K, iron and manganese, with trace amounts of other essential nutrients, protein and dietary fiber.
Nutmeg – The beneficial components include dietary fiber,manganese, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium and copper. Nutmeg has a long list of benefits even though it is often used sparingly as it can be toxic in very large doses.
Since ancient times, nutmeg and its oil were used in Chinese and Indian traditional medicines for illnesses related to the nervous and digestive systems. The compounds in nutmeg are reported to be soothing as well as having stimulant properties on brain.
Ginger – A good source of Vitamin C, Magnesium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. Ginger is used frequently for dyspepsia, slow digestive motility symptoms, constipation, or colic.
Secret Tip: Freshly grinding the spices gives you the full benefit of the aromatic compounds in the spices. Aromatic compounds are the flavors that make these spices so delicious. Chai is best made with whole milk to extract the full flavor of these compounds.
Overall, Masala Chai is a superb spiced beverage which provides warmth and a soothing effect. Chai acts as a natural digestive aid and provides a wonderful sense of nourishment and well being.
If you really don’t want to make your own spice mix you can always just buy the black tea already blended with the whole spices.
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- Masala (Spice) Mix:
- 1 Tbsp ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp ground ginger
- 2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp ground cardamom seed
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup water
- 2 tsp cane sugar
- 1 tsp black loose tea
- ¼ tsp masala (spice mix)
- PART 1:
- Grind masala spices in mortal & pestel or electric spice or coffe bean grinder.
- Measurements are for the ground spice, not the whole spice.
- Mix all the spice ingredients together.
- Place masala mix in a sealed glass spice jar. Save.
- PART 2:
- Pour all the chai ingredients into a spouted sauce pan.
- Bring to a slow boil and reduce, stirring continuously.
- Remove from heat and steep for 5 -10 minutes.
- Turn heat on again to warm up and stir well.
- Froth with an electric milk frother.
- Or do as in India and pour from a height of 12 inches to achieve the same effect.
- Strain into a cup and enjoy!
If you like a little more kick, you can increase the black pepper. I used a moderate amount in this recipe.