The first time I went to Paris with my husband was about five or so years ago over Easter. He was doing his masters in London and so I thought it would be nice to meet up in Paris and see a little of Northern France. Unsure of how (or where) to celebrate Easter lunch, we stumbled upon a Tibetan restaurant in the 5th arrondissement and decided, “why not!” Neither of us had ever tried Tibetan food, and since we weren’t celebrating Easter the traditional way anyway, we decided to be a little adventurous. Among other delicious things like steamed bread, it was here that I had my very first real masala chai. Yes, in a Tibetan restaurant. I don’t know why they served it–maybe because the Tibetan Government is in exile in Dharamshala and they are taking on some of the tastes of their hosts?–but I’m so glad they did. Since then I’ve been obsessed, and this recipe is basically my attempt to recreate that first cup with ingredients I typically have in my cupboard. With all of my research I found out that there is no one way to make masala chai. Some use star anise, some don’t. Some use pepper, others don’t. Everyone calls it masala chai and not chai tea because chai means “tea” in hindi and a lot of other languages (like Croatian! Its pronounced the same way, but we spell it “čaj”). Yes, that’s right. Calling it “Chai Tea” is literally saying “Tea Tea.” Brilliant. (sigh.)
Anyway, this is super fast to make and so much better (and I’m sure healthier since there are no fillers or preservatives) than the crap concentrate or even worse–bland teabags–labeling themselves as chai that you can get at the store. I usually make about a liter at at time (which honestly takes me about 1 day to go through since I’m a tea addict), as reflected in this recipe.
- 1.2 liters of water
- small piece of fresh ginger, peeled (about 3 cm long)
- 15 cardamom pods, cracked
- 15 cloves
- about a teaspoon of cinnamon
- few shakes of ground pepper
- 3 teabags of a GOOD, strong black tea such as Assam, Ceylon, or at least an English Breakfast tea blend from India
- 4 teaspoons of sugar or honey (or to taste)
- 1 to 2 cups of milk
First bring the water to boil in a small to medium size pot (or first in a kettle to speed up the process). Add the ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and pepper. Boil for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the tea and let brew a few minutes. Remove the tea and return the pot to the stove. Add 4 teaspoons of sugar (or more to taste) and 1 or 2 cups of milk, depending on your preference (I usually don’t measure, but simply pour some milk in until it reaches the color I like). Bring to a slight boil and remove from the heat. Strain the tea into a tea kettle to remove the spices (or your choice of carafe. be creative!) and serve warm.