For those of us in the lockdown, time is something we have plenty of. So why not use some of that time to brew up a pot of the magical beverage called chai. Sure, you can buy powdered ‘chai’, but authentic masala chai needs to be simmered for 20-40 minutes and left to steep overnight. But the effort is definitely worth it. The spices are not only delicious and fortifying – they boost your immunity, too.
You’ll find all kinds of recipes for chai on the Internet. The drink originates in India, where it is given its correct name of ‘masala chai’ (since chai is in fact Hindi for tea and masala means spices). I have come up with the following basic recipe after research and experimentation (a tough job but someone has to do it!!) Give it a go and then do some tweaking of your own so that you end up with your own perfect brew. (I would advise that you go easy on the black peppercorns as they pack a punch. Also, if you find you are missing a spice or two, don’t fret. You can still make a pleasing drink. Experiment!)
The recipe for masala chai
To make 2 pints of chai, you will need:
2 1/2 pints of water
A nob of ginger (see picture), sliced so that it roughly fills 1/3 cup
1/2 inch of fresh turmeric, sliced
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cardamom pods
1 teaspoon cloves
1 1/2 sticks of cinnamon (broken up)
3 or 4 star anise pods
2 tablespoons loose black tea (use a robust black tea like Lion brand, Liptons, Kenya Bold, PG tips etc). Please don’t use teabags – most are loaded with microplastics (see my article).
Non-dairy milk like soy, hemp or oat (dairy if you must! but not trim or skimmed as you need milk with some fat content)
Honey or sweetener.
Add the prepared spices to the water in a medium-sized saucean. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and now you will add the black tea, but it’s best to do this via a teaball or strainer.
Let the black tea steep in the spiced water for 10 minutes. Remove and then let the liquid infuse overnight. If you can’t wait that long, give it at least 2 hours.
Strain off the spices and keep the brew in a container in the fridge, where it will keep for several days. When you want a drink of chai, take one part soy milk to one part masala blend, pour in a small saucepan and heat up to boiling point. (This last part is important to get the full effect of the masala chai, since the spices are taken up by the fat in the milk.) Finally add a teaspoon of honey to taste. Enjoy!!
Spices like turmeric and ginger are good for your immune system, as discussed in a prevous blogpost. Cardamon has anti-inflammatory qualities, aids digestion and is full of anti-oxidants. Black pepper is an important healing spice in ayurveda. Star anise is another anti-oxidant-rich spice containing compounds that assist in fighting colds and flu as well as assisting digestion.
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