Thursday, October 7, 2010

1 Recipe #179: Herbal Masala Tea (Chai)

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In an effort to get rid of a lingering cough, I've been drinking lots of homemade herbal teas lately, especially this particular tea recipe and the previous one I posted just a few days ago. Drinking these herbal teas really seems to help! So, I thought I'd share another tea recipe with you, in case you were looking to soothe your throat or warm yourself up after being outdoors, especially now that the weather's getting colder.

Both this recipe and the other, previously posted one are made using whole spices, which are boiled & then steeped to release their essences.

This tea is delicious served plain, i.e., as an herbal tea, or with the addition of decaffeinated tea leaves, milk, & honey (chai).

Herbal Masala Tea (Chai)

4 c. water
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled & sliced into 4 thin rounds (about 1" piece)
4  sticks cinnamon bark, dried
10 whole cloves, dried
10 whole green cardamom pods
10 whole allspice berries
10 whole (black or green) peppercorns
nondairy lite creamer, skim milk, or coconut milk to taste

Optional Ingredients: 
4 tsp. decaffeinated loose leaf tea (or 2-3 decaffeinated tea bags)*
honey, to taste

Directions: Bring the (4 c.) water to a rolling boil in a medium-sized sauce pot or tea kettle, about 8 minutes. Add all herbs & spices (& loose tea in a tea ball or a tea bag, if desired) & continue to boil for another 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to steep for another 1-2 minutes, strain to remove whole herbs & spices, & then pour into a tea pot. (If it's easier, use heat-proof tongs first to remove the larger pieces -- ginger, cinnamon bark, etc. -- before straining.) (Discard tea leaves/bag, if using.) Pour into tea cups, add desired amount of milk & honey and serve.

Yield: Makes about 4-6 servings.

Chef's Notes: Please be sure to use whole green cardamom pods (i.e., cardamom in its natural, unprocessed form) and NOT the bleached ones that are sold in generic grocery stores (i.e., the cardamom pods from McCormick's Gourmet Collection). In the latter case, not only has their color been bleached out, but so has their flavor & nutrients! Natural green cardamom smells wonderfully vibrant & heady and when you boil the pods, along with the other whole spices, they will make your whole kitchen smell absolutely divine!

Green cardamom pods can be ordered online or found in a local ethnic (i.e., Indian, Asian, etc.) market.

*If you're adding decaffeinated tea, I'd particularly recommend using either darjeeling, jasmine, or green tea, all of which work quite nicely with the above spice mix. The spices in this recipe provide enough flavor as is, so it's important to choose tea leaves that won't overpower or conflict with the spices' bold flavors.

1 comment:

Kitchen Barbarian said...

I tried for years to make masala chai using the best Assam and Darjeeling teas, and every attempt was a miserable failure. It takes a STRONG tea to stand up to the spices and milk in masala chai.

You want the mamri-style (CTC, cut-tear-curl, basically this is how they process the tea leaves). The leaves are so tightly curled after processing that the stuff looks like gunpowder. In India this is common knowledge, but here in the USA, people equate loose tea to the "good stuff", expensive teas that, while they brew an excellent cup of tea, do not have the body or strength of character to make it as the base for masala chai. "Mamri" style tea is what goes into tea bags. If you can't find mamri style tea (commonly available at any Indian grocery, some common brands are Brooke Bond Red Label, Taj Mahal, and Tea India), you can use cheap unflavored tea bags instead.

My version of masala chai is pretty simple. I make my masala chai in 4 easy steps, using whole spices - fennel seed, cloves, and cardamom. Other spices could be used (as above) but this is my favorite blend. If you use more than 3 or 4 though some of them start to get lost, and the flavor can get sort of "muddy".

1) boil water and spices for 3 mins
2) add milk and return to a rolling boil
3) add tea and simmer on low for no more than 3 mins
4) strain, serve, add sugar to taste

The full recipe is on my blog.

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