20 June 2010

A Recipe for Masala Chai (tea)

This is a recipe for Masala Chai (tea). In Hindi, masala means spice and chai means tea so we are talking spice tea here.  While I am very fond of Stash's Chai teas, I am a loose tea person. Teabags are filled with tea fannings or tea leaves that have been milled into tiny pieces which loose their aromatic components vary quickly. This is particularly noticeable in teas with delicate flavors such as Darjeeling and Dragon Well. That is a tragedy with Darjeeling since the highly volatile components along with the muscatel flavor component are what makes Darjeeling teas so satisfying. This led me to make my own Masala Chai to vary the spice flavors thus avoiding the consistent flavor of the commercial Chai teas and lastly, to avoid teabags.

I use an FTGFOP1 (Finest, Tippy, Golden, Flowery, Orange Pekoe) Assam tea for my black tea based Masala Chai. Assam teas are very robust and full bodied so they balance the spice flavors better than a more delicate and complex flavored tea such as Darjeeling. Irish Breakfast tea is a blend of Assam and Keemun teas and is intended to be fullbodied to hold up well to milk and sugar. Adding spice to it is just the next step. I haven't yet tried Keemun but I plan to. I will also try using Irish Breakfast as a tea base. The Assam base is working well.

For a masala chai based on green tea, to get those catechins to fight the free radicals, I'd use something like a Chinese Sencha which has a more robust flavor characteristic, highly vegetal, than many of the other Chinese green teas and would better balance the spices. I suspect that one would use less spices with the green tea than one would use with the black tea. I haven't tried this but I suspect 60 to 80 percent of the spices used for a black tea would be best for a green tea.

My teapot holds 3 cups (24 fl. ox.) of water, so you can scale the recipe accordingly for your teapots and serving sizes. This is a single spice chai. Adjust according to what you like.  These measurements are approximate.  Only be anal if you want to reproduce the results exactly.

  1. 3 tsp.  Assam loose tea
  2. 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  3. 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
  4. 1/8 tsp. ground allspice
  5. 1/12 tsp. ground cardomom
  6. 1/16 tsp. ground coriander
  7. 1/16 tsp. ground nutmeg
  8. 1/16 tsp. ground cloves
Other spices I'd like to try added one at a time are:
  • licorice
  • star anise
  • ground aniseseed
Steep for at least 10 minutes in initially boiling water.  If desired, add milk, cream, or half and half to taste and sugar to taste.

WARNING: Milk prevents your body from absorbing the antioxidants present in the tea.  The sugar does not.  I sometimes use agave nectar to slightly sweeten my masala chai but I normally drink it without milk and sugar.

The spices used are all Ayurvedic spices with well documented therapeutic benefits.  While masala chai is not considered to be 'medicine,' it is considered to be a beneficial 'health' drink.  If you add licorice, do some research on the safe daily dosage.  Licorice is good for you provided you do not eat too much.  It causes retention of potassium so if you are taking an ACE inhibitor I'd eat even less.

If you want this to taste more like Stash's chais, increase the cardomom to 1/8 teaspoon.  Yummy.  Enjoy playing with the spice quantities and try just sprinkling the spices in to get varying flavors each time for that variation is a good thing outlook.


  1. I've been waiting forever for you to write a new post. I was expecting something scathing and political, but a nice cuppa tea will do!

  2. It's been a target rich environment so I will probably get political again with the Rethuglicans acting as the public relations arm of the energy cartel.

    My writing is very sensitive to my emotional state. This has not been a good year for me. I hope it's getting better.

    Thank you for your kind words.