My name is Divya, and I am the founder of AyurSome Foods. Those who know me personally know that the one thing that gives me utmost joy is a well-brewed cup of Indian Masala Chai. It’s my joy, and it was my only addiction until a few weeks back. Don’t worry; I didn’t latch on to any more addictions. I finally let go of the one I had. It was my N’th attempt to quit my tea addiction, and at the time I wrote this article, I was addiction-free for about 40 days. While I let go of the addiction, Masala Chai remains my utmost joy that I cherish once a week. Chai, to me, is not just a beverage; nor is it just about feeling energized. It is an emotion. It is something that keeps me close to my culture. Masala Chai brings back fond memories of hanging out with my friends and family back in India, bonding over endless conversations about our youthful aspirations, our crushes and heartbreaks, our retirement plans, etc. We even sang Hindi movie songs while having masala chai at midnight sitting on benches next to chai carts. I have been living in the US for the past 10 years, and every time my kitchen smells of freshly brewed spiced chai, my heart is full, as if I am with my loved ones.
It's hard to imagine tea, i.e., the Camellia sinensis plant, was a foreign crop for India. It was brought to India by the Britishers in the 19th century because the Chinese monopoly over tea needed to be broken. Fast forward, masala tea is so intertwined in Indian culture that my late Father-in-law actually called it the second mother of Indians (the first one being Mother India), and the Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi came up with a campaign called ‘Chai pe Charcha,’ meaning discussions over tea, to encourage healthy discussions over woke topics.
What is Masala Chai?
Simply put, Masala Chai is typically a decoction of water, milk, black tea leaves (i.e., chai leaves), and a spice blend (i.e., masala). Making it can be as simple or as nuanced as you’d like.
How to make the spice blend for Masala Chai?
The one thing you must know is that the recipe for the spice blend and Masala Chai itself is different for every person. Not to complicate it further, but you can switch it up by the season too! Some people like to make the chai spice mix and store it in a jar for daily use. I just use freshly pounded spices when I want to make the chai. Both ways are right; I just like to use the spices based on how I am feeling that day.
If you want to make a chai spice mix and store it for use in your masala chai (or even a glass of milk), here is a recipe you can explore: Use 3 parts of green cardamom, 1.5 parts fennel seeds, ½ part whole cloves, ½ part cinnamon stick. Grind these in a spice jar, add ½ part dry ginger powder, and blend again for a uniform masala chai spice blend.
A few of my personal favorite spice combinations for Masala Chai are as follows:
Refreshing spice combinations for Masala Chai in Summer months
- Lemongrass (fresh if available) and Fresh Ginger
- Fresh Ginger in the decoction, and a twig of fresh mint in the cup
- Cardamom and Fennel
- Cardamom, Fennel, and Rose petals
All-season favorite spice combination for Masala Chai
- Cardamom and Fresh Ginger
Winter special spice combinations for Masala Chai
- Cloves, Cardamom, Star anise, Cinnamon, and Dry Ginger
- Lemongrass, Cloves, Dry Ginger
A basic recipe for a strong cup of Masala Chai
No exaggeration, but every single person’s recipe for masala chai is different. Mine is different from day to day!
But I will share the one I commonly use: Add these ingredients into a saucepan: 3/4th cup of water, 1/4th cup of milk, 2-3 teaspoons of black tea (depending upon how strong you like it), spices per your choice. Bring the mix to a boil and then let it simmer for 5-7 minutes until your kitchen is fragrant. Strain the chai into a cup.
How to have Indian Masala chai the Ayurvedic way
Well, you are on an Ayurvedic wellness website. How can we not talk about the Ayurvedic perspective on Masala Chai?
In Ayurveda, the holistic system of medicine in India, if focused on bringing wellness by balancing the five elements in the body – earth, water, fire, air, and ether. It follows a very simple principle – likes increase like, opposites balance.
Per Ayurveda, black tea aggravates fire (pitta dosha) and air/ether elements (vata dosha). It can balance earth and water elements (kapha dosha). As such, if you are feeling or are easily triggered by emotions of anger, frustration, nervousness, fear, and anxiety, you may want to avoid having a heavily spiced strong cup of Masala Chai on a regular basis (same with coffee). If you have a cold, go ahead and brew yourself one!
If your mind or body cannot take Masala Chai, here are a few herbal alternatives: Replace black tea leaves with Rooibos. Make a masala chai-like decoction with ½ cup water, ½ cup milk/almond milk, a little bit of freshly grated ginger, freshly pounded spices – 2 pods of green cardamom, 1 clove, 1 petal of star anise, a tiny piece of cinnamon, and a dash of coconut sugar.
Enjoy the Masala Chai beyond borders!
In the past few years, specialty cafes and tea shops in the USA have embraced Masala Chai and have presented the traditional Indian chai in many contemporary forms like chai lattes, incorporating them into cookies and desserts, iced chai, etc. It is such a pleasure to see how such a humble Indian tea beverage has transcended the borders. There are no particular rules on how you enjoy your cup of Chai – spiced, not spiced, caffeinated, non-caffeinated, with family/friends, or just to enjoy some me time. So, go ahead and brew it how you’d like it! My fav way is to have it on Sunday mornings with an Ancient Grain Tea Biscuit.