Chai means, simply, tea, but order a cup in India and you’re likley to get a small hot glass of something sweet, milky and spicy. Masala chai, the popular variety that has made its way into lattes in the states, is warming, comforting and tastes like bliss.
It’s also great for you. Ginger aids digestion and works as an anti-inflammatory; cinnamon helps keep blood sugar levels low; and all the spices work to warm the body from the inside out, another way to keep our digestive system moving and blood circulation flowing.
Black tea and cow’s milk are the traditional choices but you can experiement with caffeine free teas (tulsi or rooibos would be delicious) and alternative milks.
Here’s a simple recipe you can make at home.
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups water
- ~2 tsps black tea per cup (can also use decaffeinated black or tulsi tea)
- 1 inch of unpeeled fresh ginger, coarsely grated
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 14 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- 8 to 10 whole black peppercorns
- a few cloves
- 1 to 2 star anise
- 2 tsps fennel seeds
- maple syrup or honey to taste
Bring water, ginger and cinammon to a boil. Lower to a simmer and add all the other ingredients, saving the sweetener (if needed) until the very end. Strain and enjoy.
As with all things culinary, use your intuition and play around with proportions until you find the right blend. This is an easy recipe to scale up if you’re looking for a warm beverage to share with friends or keep simmering in a crock pot (bonus: your house will smell delicious). For hot chai first thing in the morning, prepare the night before.