Masala chai, there is nothing like it. It’s thick, aromatic, intoxicatingly sweet and packs a punch. My sister, Sammy, loves really strong tea. She always complains about how weak I make tea in England, so when she was visiting us, I had to take her to meet a chai wallah. I am fond of a “weak” cuppa, but I love strong chai from the roadside now and then.
A chai wallah is someone who makes masala chai for a living, for a couple of rupees a glass (yes, tea in tiny glasses). They can be found almost everywhere; standing over huge cauldrons of bubbling tea they’ve been brewing for hours, pouring it from great highs with long ladles. I think even Sammy was surprised how strong it was!
There is no definitive method to make masala chai. I have tried to make it many ways, and the following way is the one which works for me. If you are looking for a subtle and comforting masala chai, give this one a go…
You will need:
- ½ cup water
- 1 ½ milk
- 2 tsp loose tea leaves
- 2 tsp sugar
- 5 cardamom pods
- 5 cloves
- 1 pinch of freshly grated ginger
- 2 small tea cups
- 1 tea strainer
- Crush the cloves and cardamom with a rolling-pin.
- Pull the cardamom pods apart, releasing the seeds, and the snap the stem of the cloves.
- Add the crushed spices and sugar to the milk and water and simmer for five minutes
- Add the tea leaves and grated ginger and simmer for a further two minutes.
- Turn off the heat and let the chai stand for two minutes, allowing the flavours to permeate.
- Strain and enjoy!
Some people add cinnamon to their chai, but clove and cinnamon taste really similar to me making that earthy warmth too overpowering if combined. Black pepper is another common addition, but fresh ginger makes it peppery enough for my taste. Masala chai from a wallah is great for early mornings and road trips, but I couldn’t handle it everyday. I love my calmer version for daily drinking.