Masala Chai, the tea with spices from India

a cup with masala chai and spices
The masala chai is much more than a drink. It is the welcome symbol in every house in India and a break for the daily rush.

What is Masala Chai?

If your day begins with coffee, in India the mornings exude chai, the traditional Indian tea with milk. Masala Chai is black tea with spices, milk, and sugar. Although the Indian consumption of herbal infusions is a millenary tradition, the habit of mixing tea with milk and sugar was first brought by the British. After a while, Indians adapted the tea to their taste with the addition of spices and thus Masala Chai was born.

The masala chai is much more than a drink. It is the welcome symbol in every house and a break for the daily rush. Masala means spice mixture. There is no original recipe, but rather a general understanding of the main ingredients: black tea, spices, milk, and sugar.

The most common ingredients

The most common spices in the masala chai are ginger, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, black pepper, and cinnamon. It is better to use whole milk because the fat helps to loosen the aromatic compounds of the spices. Another essential element is sugar, the masala chai needs to be sweetened. We like it with jaggery, a kind of raw sugar consumed in India.

Consumption of Masala Chai in India

The masala chai varies from region to region. In Mumbai the typical one is the cutting chai, in Kashmiri is a pink chai made with saffron, while in Kolkata it is common to serve masala chai in disposable clay cups, like the one from the photo below.

It is said that the Indian’s passion for tea didn’t happen at first sight. With the motivation to overthrow the Chinese monopoly of tea, the English began to cultivate tea in India on a commercial scale and encouraged factories to stipulate tea-drinking Intervals. There was also support for street tea vendors, known as Chai Wallahs, an icon of the gastronomic culture of India. Today, the Chai Wallahs are spread all over the cities, always busy, they make the best chai you can find!

Tea stall chai wallah
Tea Stall in Kolkata

India and tea

India is today the second largest tea producer in the world. The domestic consumption is approximately 80% of local production, the equivalent of 1 million tonnes per year besides being the country where black tea is most consumed in the world.

Read more: Indian Tea, one of the best in the world

Check out the recipe and learn how to make Masala Chai

a cup with masala chai and spices

Homemade Indian Masala Chai

3 from 2 votes
The masala chai is much more than a drink. It is the welcome symbol in every house in India and a break for the daily rush.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Drinks
Cuisine India
Servings 2 pessoas

Adjust servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup water
  • 3-4 cm ginger
  • 4 cardamoms pods
  • 4 tsp black tea
  • 3-4 tbsp raw sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk

Instructions

  • Put the water in a saucepan to boil.
  • Then, with the help of a pestle, gently break the ginger or cut into slices.
  • Break the cardamom pods in the mortar.
  • Add the ginger and cardamom in the water and let it boil.
  • Add the black tea and boil for another 2 minutes.
  • Add the sugar and mix well until dissolved.
  • Add milk and mix.
  • Let it boil for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Turn off the fire and with the aid of a sieve, transfer the masala chai to a cup.
  • It is ready to serve.

EQUIPMENT

Mortar and Pestle
Strainer

Notes

  • In India, there is a tradition of pouring the masala chai from one glass to another to oxygenate the chai before drinking. If you try it for the experience of tradition, be careful not to get burned.
  • There are several variations of Indian masala chai that add other spices. To spice up the masala chai, you can include:
    • Black pepper, cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, fennel seeds. Do not forget to break the spice in a pestle before adding it to the pan.
    • You can also add bay leaves.
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