- 1 cup Water
- 1 cup Milk
- 1-2 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp loose tea leaves
- 3-4 whole black peppercorn seeds
- 1 inch fresh ginger
- 1 medium cinnamon stick
- 3-4 cardamom pods
- 2 whole cloves
- 2 medium Indian bay leaves, dried
Nepalis called it Chiya. Indians call it Chai. And Westerners call it “Chai Tea,” which — repeat after me — MAKES. NO. SENSE.
Nothing makes mornings better like a fresh cup of masala chai (masala=spices; chai=tea) made with milk and fresh spices. Every region, every country — and probably every home — in South Asia has their own take on what makes a perfect cup of chai. My mom used dried Indian bay leaves, locally referred to as Tejpatta. I’ve seen some Indian friends add fennel seeds. But regardless of what you do, the key to making the best chai is use freshly ground spices and loose tea leaves. That will make all the difference.
I usually have tea from Ilam in Nepal, which I love. When I don’t, I get Assam or Darjeeling tea.
Put all the whole spices — cardamom, black peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cloves — in a mortar and crush them gently with the pestle. Make sure the cardamom pods break and the seeds are crushed finely. Some people discard the pods but I always use them. Chop the ginger into fine thin slices.
In a saucepan, heat the water and milk. Add sugar, bay leaves and the spices. Stir well. Once the mixture comes to a boil, put in the loose tea leaves. Please don’t use tea bags — if you must, tear open them and make sure you have a spoonful of it to boil. Turn the heat down and keep it at a lively simmer for about 3-4 minutes or until the tea has a rich, beautiful tan. See the video below for reference. Use a strainer to pour into a cup. Enjoy your chai, by itself, or if you’re lucky, with some samosas.
And remember: Saying “chai tea” is like saying “tea tea” — so just don’t ever.