Masala Chai

During my third year of college I was lucky enough to spend a semester in India. The study abroad program didn’t allow students to drink alcohol and I filled this massive, gaping hole with chai. Served at every meal and sold at every train stop, chai was a more consistent part of my routine than malaria medicine (the test came back negative). For 15 rupees, about a quarter, you could get scalding hot tea in a thin, clear, plastic cup. I truly believe some chemicals would melt off, giving the tea a unique flavor which I will never be able to replicate.

Back on the other side of the world, my favorite chai is embarrassingly enough from Starbucks. I wish this wasn’t the case, primarily because they charge you $4.00 to pour something out of a box. “A box?!” you say? Yes, a box. See below.

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This chai looks beat up, but you should see the other box. ­čÖü

This box contains about four servings and is the same price as a venti, so consider investing. My biggest complaint is that it’s sweet, really sweet. Also no boxed beverage can provide the laptop-toting yuppies or gentle jazzy alternative┬ámusic that ‘bucks is known for. ┬áTo make up for this I put on a business casual outfit and…continued my binge of Sex in the City. It’s like I’m really there!

Ingredients:

  • Black tea
  • Fresh ginger
  • Whole peppercorns
  • Green cardamom pods
  • Star anise
  • Fennel seeds
  • Honey
  • Whole milk

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The basic recipe for chai is spices + tea + sweetener + milk = nice. I did some research and picked the most mentioned spices. Starting with the recognizable cinnamon stick and working clockwise, we have a chunk of fresh ginger, whole peppercorns, green cardamom pods, star anise, and fennel seeds. I had to trek out to Whole Foods to find the cardamom and anise and there were exactly 6 tiny green cardamom pods left. I spent 91 cents that trip, the cheapest Whole Foods excursion in history.

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For tea I went super authentic: Bigelow Earl Grey. The cool thing about cooking is you can control for factors like caffeine, which makes me both anxious and inefficient. When I do get something from Starbucks I spend the rest of the day shivering and trying to figure out how mutual funds work.

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I put two tea bags and the spices into a pot with water. In my mind I was putting equal amounts of all the spices but was I really? I’m going to do further research on how to balance them correctly.

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After boiling the water for ten minutes the tea turned this really pretty amber color. I added honey and let it continue to boil.

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I poured in a cup of whole milk and then let everything continue to simmer.

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I dumped all the contents over a strainer…

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And into this cup. A cat? Drinking a beer?? Insanity!

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Behind-the-scenes

Then I attempted to transfer the tea from the novelty mug into this nice glass cup.

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And here is the final product. It turned out really, really good. So good in fact that I drank it all and then immediately made another batch, letting it steep longer the second time around. I need to play around with the ingredients because I want more spice, this turned out a bit too mellow. The process of making chai is very relaxing, while drinking it as Carrie wears a beret and breaks up with Big is less so. I will be making many more batches in the future.

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That’s a “Dirty” sign on my dishwasher. The other side says “Clean.” Talk about communication!

Enjoy!

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