8.25.2011

The Perfect Cup of Chaa Masala Tea

In our house, we say the Gujarati word "chaa", not the Hindi word, "chai".  In Chinese, the word for tea is "Tsa", coincidentally rhyming with "chaa", so therefore I've decided "chaa" is the more global way to say it.  I'll alert the UN right away. 

I like the word chaa for one reason:  If you go to India, someone in Gujarati might ask "Would you like some tea?" "Chaa joye che?" while someone might ask the same thing in Hindi "Chai chaahiye?"  See how redundant that sounds?  And plus, there's joy in the way we ask.

Some chaa Masala ingredients: Ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, fennel seed, and black peppercorns
Chaa is very simple to make but you need the staple ingredient first - chaa masala.  Chaa masala is a wonderfully aromatic ground spice mix which you can make in your own home. 

So I need to discuss something first.  Do you ever wonder about food origins and food discovery?  I mean seriously, just look at the photo here.  What made anyone think that they should try ingesting any form of these ingredients?  If I saw a peppercorn, I would not say "Hmm, let me try swapping some of my tooth enamel for one of these babies!" or if I saw a clove, I would not think "i have so many uses for mini tree trunks!"  And have you ever peeled a cardamom pod and seen the inside?  Come on...what does it look like?  Just say it.  It looks like a bug took a poo. A very constipated poo.

So now I bet you're really in the mood for chaa, huh?

I've tried making chaa/chai masala from raw ingredients (like the photo shows) but I don't have an effective spice grinder.  The larger particles end up settling at the bottom of the liquid instead of infusing flavor.  I have better results using pre-ground ingredients.  You can customize and adjust each spice to your liking (more cinnamon, more ginger, omit fennel, etc)

The Perfect Cup of Masala Chaa
(makes 1 cup)

There are hundreds of ways to make chaa.  More milk, less milk, etc.  Sweetners and teas also vary.  At our family reunion, everyone was criticizing the next person on how they make it.  One becomes very territorial about chaa. Once you decide what you like...that's it.  You have to own it and you better be ready to defend it.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp Chaa Masala Spice Blend (recipe follows)
1/2 Tablespoon of Assam Tea (loose tea - I use Wagh Bakri brand)
sugar to taste

Directions

1. Heat water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add sugar, chaa masala, and loose tea.  Allow it to come to a rolling boil.
2. Add milk.  Allow it to come to a rolling boil again.
3. Strain and serve in a mug or teacup.
*Tip: During cold weather seasons and/or to soothe a cough/cold, add 2 Teaspoons freshly grated ginger.

Chaa Masala Spice Blend
I've been very pleased with storebought chaa masala, but here's how to make your own.
Yield: approx 1/2 cup

2 Tablespoons ground cardamom
2 Tablespoons ground ginger
2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 Tablespoons ground cloves (1/4 tsp allspice works as a substitute)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix ingredients and store for 6-8 months in an airtight spice jar.

13 comments:

  1. First of all, I love cardamom so much I feel like I need to come to its defense.

    Second of all, I love chai, but we had major problems with our dishwasher a few months ago. The culprit? Whole cloves and cardamom pods that found their way into the crevices of the machine. I swear I thought I'd rinsed the strainer properly. (Oops.)

    Your ground alternative is better.

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  2. Oh this post made me smile so big!

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  3. I haven't had a cup of good masala chaa in forever...now might be the time to bring it back to my every day routine :-)

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  4. cheryl - i'm sure shefskitchen will come up with a whole spice recipe that works and doesn't compromise our appliances....hmmm...i do want a new dishwasher... :)

    roshni - glad it made you smile!!!

    madhvi - maybe we should wait until we get out of the 100s and then those cool 90 degrees might get us in the mood for a piping hot cup of chaa. :)

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  5. that is the perfect plate of spices, and a delicious looking cup of tea -- it's all so beautiful!

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  6. OMG! what a perfect coffee
    so delicious :D

    can we exchange link.. visit my blog too :D

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  7. Mmm that looks perfect, just perfect. Wish I'd made myself some of this during the hurricane hehe.

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  8. valentina - thank you!

    how to be vegetarian - thanks for stopping by!

    xiaolu - glad you are okay!

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  9. only my favorite kind of tea. thanks for sharing!

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  10. Do you think the Chaa Masala spices could be added to a basic green tea (brewed from a tea bag) to make sort of a chai/chaa green tea?

    Also, if we don't have a proper strainer is it okay to drink the ground spices just mixed into the water?

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  11. i came over after I saw your kala channa post on herbivoracious. I haven't stopped reading until this post. Dang girl. I can't wait to try some of these. Sending you guju veggie love across the ocean. Shrikhand icing! Brilliant!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment Neeli! I appreciate the feedback. Thanks for the guju love. :) Let me know if you try anything here and how you liked it or suggest what you might change. :)

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    2. I'm excited to try out some of your meals! The sesame tofu looks delicious and (omg!) falooda! want!

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