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There seem to be as many recipes for Masala chai as there are families in India.

How do you make your masala chai?

Please share the recipe in as much detail as you can. Would be great to see how the different members prepare this dish that is quite popular at least in the US these days.

What are the most essential ingredients in your mind for Masala Chai?

What are ingredients you would not mind skipping? Why so?

When do you add milk?

How much milk do you add?

Do you add sugar and when?

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Ah... what a topic!

Don't know why I never asked this question here..

OK... the way I've been making tea the past little while is as follows:

1) Three cinnamon sticks (5 inches each)

2) teaspoon of fennel seeds -pounded

3) 4 green cardamom pods -pounded

4) 6 cloves - pounded

5) 2 black peppercorns - pounded

Naturally the method of pounding definitely affects the overall intensity of the spices. If I want it to be generally spicier, I crush the peppercorns a bit more. Otherwise I often change things by crushing the cardamom more or less. I use a large granite mortal and pestle to do this.

Once the water is boiled, I add the spices, wait for the colour to change significantly, and then add a black teabag for about 10 seconds just until the tea is dark enough and before the smell of the black tea becomes too prominent.

When I make this with milk, I usually use about 50/50 water to milk. I'd like to use whole milk, but I usually stick with 2%.

I still seem to have problems getting the milk to take on the same amount of flavour as the only-water-based tea. I'm sure someone can shed light on doing this....

As for sugar, I usually don't add while cooking the tea. If anything I add the equivalent of a half-teaspoon per cup.


Edited by jokhm (log)
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Many of the Indian homes I have visited and asked to be in the kitchen as they prepare masal chai, have done what you did, changing the spice mix to suit their individual tastes, and have added milk and sugar after adding the tea. They do not use tea bags... loose tea. After the addition of tea, they wait for it to come to a boil, add the milk, wait for it to come to a boil, turn down the heat to the lowest flame and bring to another boil. Strain into glasses (yes Indians drink masala chai from glasses often, if not most of the time) or cups and serve. The sugar is added with the milk.

It is funny for me to document how every home has their own very unique blend of spices.

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I'm going to have to make it again and do some reading on it... for me, I tried chai at an indian restaurant and loved it so I went home and did my best to try to emulate it and I've had that particular taste in mind ever since when I think of chai.

Suvir, feel free to put me in my place because I know I'm going at it completely backwards from what appears to be the traditional method:

It's been quite a while, but when I've made it, I've started out with either half milk & half water or 3/4 whole milk and 1/4 water (eta -I have a taste for it being quite rich & dense in texture) and treat it almost like a custard. I'll put the teaball in to steep from the start and bring it slowly to a boil with all the spices (cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardemom, ginger and peppercorns for me, maybe nutmeg - eta, this always varies to whim & according to mood, but is usually roughly about 2 3-4" cinnamon sticks, 8 peppercorns, 6 cardemom pods, 8 cloves... ginger I was formerly useing powdered because that was what I had on hand, i'll try it with 2 slices of fresh ginger next time), then lower the heat and add sugar. I just let it steep until it takes on the color/flavor I'm looking for from the tea - a light caramel color - then add sugar, reheat to nearly a boil, strain and serve.

I never thought of pounding the spices beforehand. I also never thought of just throwing the tea leaves in loose near the end instead of using the tea ball... I'm going to strain it anyway, so might as well.

Edited by megaira (log)

". . . if waters are still, then they can't run at all, deep or shallow."

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Megaira, you have done what I have seen done in many an Indian home in my travels.

Not much of a fan of Masala Chai, I only ask for a demo of Chai making from my hosts wherever I am in India, so I can come back with another variation for it.

Thanks for sharing your method and recipe. Fresh ginger I do think makes a great difference in the end.

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In our family masala chai would is made with fewer spices: a cinnamon stick and either green cardamom or black cardamom depending on who in the family was making it. The cinnamon stick is left whole and the cardamom coarsely ground. Spices are added when the water has come a boil and then left to boil for about 30 seconds or 1 minute after which milk is added at a ratio of about 1 part milk to 3 parts water. The mixture is allowed to come to a boil again and then removed from the heat. Tea (sometimes loose, sometimes in bags) is added and the mixture left to stand, covered, for about 5 minutes.

When we had colds or were feeling unwell my mother would make us tea made in the same way, but she would add a healthy amount of thinly sliced fresh ginger and whole black peppercorns to the water at the outset and leave out the cinnamon and cardamom. I still make it this way when I am feeling under the weather and somehow it always makes me feel a little better.


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Phew... :blush:  Felt like I'd really gone and put my head on the chopping block there.

No drama or superiority of inferiority complex takes place in Indian kitchens. I have never seen much fuss or ceremony accorded to anything but the food and taste. You will never find too many discusssions about brands etc. Only about recipes, where they come from and who makes them best in a community.

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Couldn't resist throwing in my 2 cents as it were:


Boil 1 1/2 cups water with three nice pieces cassisa, 2 lobes star anise, 3-4 cloves, 2 smashed slices ginger, 3-4 green cardamoms cracked, 2-3 peppercorns, 1 blade mace. I let this boil a good few minutes to infuse well, then I add about as much milk as water, sugar to taste (usually 1 big Tbsp) and a good Tbsp or a bit more of tea (my roomates' nice looseleaf English Breakfast works well). I then simmer for about 5 minutes or so, strain and drink or put into a thermos with spices and all and take it to work as so.

I personally never really cared much for the black peppercorns in masala chai; bought a cheap pre-mixed thingy from India once and it was overpoweringly pepper heavy, tasted almost uniquely of pepper.

I sometimes spice it with just ginger, nothing else, so I guess if I had to have a favourite spice that would be it.

Had never thought of using black cardamom, it sounds nice .. I'll try it tomorrow morning.

What types of tea are usually used for masala chai?

I assume recipes vary according to region? What would be a charecteristically North Indian compared to South Indian spicing ?

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In my travels across India and many homes, modest, middle class and overtly affluent, I have found an Indian brand called Brooke Bond, red label (?? in the red box) to be the most commonly used loose tea for Masala Chai.

When I ask the women or chefs using this tea why they prefer it over the rest, they say it is heartier, stronger and with more tannin that pairs well with the spicy notes of the masala.

As I said before, I only try and document what each of these families does with tea. I have little if any enjoyment in drinking masala chai. I would rather drink other teas and without any spice at all.

We had one person in our extended family (family members and household employees) that drank masala chai. The rest enjoyed tea of other kinds. Tea was a ceremony accorded much fuss and aplomb. My grandparents drank tea way early in the morning and it was a ritual just as lavish and beautiful as you find it in movies of the Raj era. It was accompanied with baked goods and jams and jellies and creams to go with the baked stuff. And that was even more to my taste instead of the teas. Which I begun to enjoy so I could partake of all these other goodies.

My mother would drink tea in a similar, but not as fussy manner. But even that was a ceremony. She would end each day, and begin each morning with a tea prepared with honey and lime or a citrus of some sort... and this was a cleansing tea. My sister enjoyed this particular tea. It had no milk in it.

In my book I share the recipe for the Masala Chai that was made in the kitchen of our home for this one person. I would be glad to PM it to anyone interested. But as I said before, Masala Chai is all about personal preference and taste.

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In my travels across India and many homes, modest, middle class and overtly affluent, I have found an Indian brand called Brooke Bond, red label (?? in the red box) to be the most commonly used loose tea for Masala Chai.

Suvir, You are right that Brooke Bond Red Label is the most commonly used tea in India (except probably south).

I'd like to share what I learned from a chef in Shimla when we were there in one of our yearly rituals to try and capture the snowfalling event.

I really liked the flavor of the tea served there in the Mall Road cafe called "India Coffee House" or "India Tea House", I dont remember exactly. When I asked our server for the secret, he called one of the chefs and he told me that they use a blend of "Red Label" and "Green Label". He explained that Green label is from Darjeeling and Red label is from Assam. Red label is very good for color and richness while Green label is very aromatic and flavorful.

Of course they did not use any masala, but we did that in our home using the same blends and the results are very soothing. We make our masala by grinding the spices (saunf, elaichi, cloves, black pepper, ginger powder, cinnamon) coarsely and sprinkling when the water is a little hot and let it boil for a few seconds before putting the tea leaves and then simmerring the tea after adding milk bringing to a boil in the end.

A good analogy for blending is red wine from Bordeaux, as compared to only Cabernet or only Merlot.

However, it still remains a matter of personal preference.


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hmm my chai recipe -

loose tea in water with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, pepper, anise, and clove. bring to a boil, add half n half and sugar, bring to another boil until it's a medium brown, and to the point where if it cooled there would be a skin, and then strain.

love it.

and am amused that it has been the latest hip thing, after nose piercings and mehndi.

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The only way Brooke Bond ever found usage in our home, was in one tea for which Panditji would use darjeeling green label and brooke bond red label. For the same reasons as you explain. And it was served black and with honey.

At other times, with the good grace of friends that had tea plantations, we have teas from the different regions and tea was served quite religiously and with great respect for a tradition as old as my grandparents and theirs. My grandmothers have both passed away, my maternal grandfather is now alone in San Francisco, where he had lived with my grandma. My aunt now takes care of him.... and she is keeping up the fussy tea tradition. Both morning and evening. It is the most amazing time of the day to be present in an Indian home where tea is accorded that fuss. The foods, the cookies, the scones, the jams and jellies, the malai (cream) and the "snacks" are all the best of the best you would find in the home. And then the convesations and nostalgia that come peppered with the act of drinking tea.... amazing. Makes for a wonderful distraction from the mundane chores of life.

I love Simla. And yes we would make trips to Simla for the snow. And only those years when it fell. And only after a message had come that snow was falling. I remember one year when it was so cold and there was so much snow, that even the train with the metal blades that cut the snow, had to stop running. I remember how the chai wallahs (tea vendors), would see the car with the flag coming and take their hot water and throw it on the windscreen to help melt the snow. Only in India could an official of the administration and their car, get away with such drama. :rolleyes:

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bring to a boil, add half n half and sugar, bring to another boil until it's a medium brown, and to the point where if it cooled there would be a skin, and then strain.

WOW! As noted by me before, in our home, it was made for one person. And Panditji, would make it with his blend of spices and then do exactly what you mention.

I remember the malai (cream/skin) forming on the tea, and that being the step after which it would be strained. :smile:

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yeah the skin has always been key to my chai experiences from childhood on. When my mom made it it would be for 4 or 5 servings at a time, and since i've grown up cooking for 5 i have difficulty scaling back! *lol*

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ecr's questions regarding quantities in my first post:

I usually use those quantities along with about enough liquid for 5 cups of tea. (Very roughly). As for the teabag itself... I seem to have and endless supply of very strong lipton teabags in my cupboard, and therefore one bag is enough for 5+ cups of tea. The only variable is how long you choose to keep the teabag immersed. I usually have it in until I can discern two separate smells, the spices and the teabag.

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I had never heard of fresh sliced ginger in masala tea! I just have a fresh root at home and I'm going to try it (it's very rainy and cold here now, so it could be the right time)

The only issue is that, apart from my hubby's green teas collection and some already spiced teas, I have only Earl Grey at present...and it's Sunday.

Do you think that I can use it for masala tea, or it's too heavily flavoured?


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I had never heard of fresh sliced ginger in masala tea! I just have a fresh root at home and I'm going to try it (it's very rainy and cold here now, so it could be the right time)

The only issue is that, apart from my hubby's green teas collection and some already spiced teas, I have only Earl Grey at present...and it's Sunday.

Do you think that I can use it for masala tea, or it's too heavily flavoured?


Go ahead and use fresh ginger in any kind of tea. It always helps with the cold.


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In the 1950s India had a surplus of low-grade tea. The Indian Tea Board was looking for new markets and launched a campaign to promote the drinking of tea with milk, spices, etc, which until then had not been very widespread. The idea that chai is some sort of authentic India drink is a misconception.

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Interesting.... hmm....

No wonder my grandparents and parents have a very different understanding of tea and how it ought to be enjoyed. Certainly my granparents, both sets of them, were very old fashiond, and so, masala chai, never really caught on with them, and hence in our household too, masala chai was not in the radar, really. Only prepared for one person.

My grandmas, now both deceased, would have been my source for inquiry about what their own parents drank or if anyone in earlier generations drank masala chai.

Does anyone have grandparents or other elders that could shed light on what if any was the consumption of masala chai in India pre 1950? I would be very curious to know.

My mother remembers only ever having tea served "English Style" as she said her nanny would call it.

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In the 1950s India had a surplus of low-grade tea. The Indian Tea Board was looking for new markets and launched a campaign to promote the drinking of tea with milk, spices, etc, which until then had not been very widespread. The idea that chai is some sort of authentic India  drink is a misconception.

Chai I believe is from the chinese word char simply meaning tea.

Wow, you threw a very interesting spin on this discussion. I do not by any means doubt what you say I am simply curious of your reference or sourse. Did you personally live through that time?

When I was growing up tea was always milk and water boiled toghether with tea leaves. The tea was ( for punjabis at least who wanted a strong caffine and tanin rush) usually brooke bond yellow label. In later years we started mixing it with the green label. Sugar was always pre added. The water and milk ratio was interesting. For usual family consumption I would think it was about 1/4th milk. But if you had important visitors the quantity of milk went up with the ultimate honoured guest getting ALL milk chai.

Cardamon or fennel seeds were added sometimes. Munakka, ginger cloves etc were also used. however as these were considered ' HOT' as per aurveda their use was more prevalent for medicinal purposes( colds, congestion etc) or in the colder winter months.

Masalla Chaii or tea made with spice blends ( powdered or whole) I think was a later thing though I cannot put a year to it.

Incidently what about Kashmiri tea or Kahwa with unfired green tea, slivered almonds saffron etc usually no milk though. Do you think that would qualify for masalla tea.

And what do folks think of flavor infused teas like mango tea??

My ex boss was from Jammu and tells me of this 'horrible tea'. You take milk and add this certain kind of tea and boil it and boil it for a long time and it turns kind of red or pink and then you add lots of old fashioned malai ( would that be clotted cream?) and you enjoyed it with some rustic old bread. Oh he described it with such passionate relish but just the thought of it made me want to puke. Anyone from J&K here?

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