Once upon a time, we took a train from Delhi to Varkala. Along the way, chaiwallahs would jump on the train to offer cups of steaming hot masala chai. If the stop in a station was short, they would serve it to the passengers through the train windows (along with homemade snacks!).
Even since then, we’ve been on the hunt for a good masala chai that had the same incredible depth of flavor we remember.
(Chai means “tea” in the Urdu language. Masala means “a blend of ground spices” in Hindu, Urdu and Gujarati. So, “chai tea” is technically “tea tea”!)
Most tea bags don’t come close in capturing the intensity of flavor. The syrups contain a ton of sugar and usually don’t come in decaf. And using whole spices, even when steeped for a long time don’t release all their flavor.
So, what’s a spice blend company to do? Create our own chai masala, of course! Our blend is specific to our taste (we like the intense flavors of black pepper and cardamom). You may want to use less or more of a specific spice, so we encourage you to experiment.
The flavors will be more intense if you grind whole spices, but ground spices will work just fine. You’ll end up with about a cup and a half of ground spice, which will keep for 3-6 months in a tightly sealed glass or metal container kept out of direct light.
Traditionally, you would cook the spices, loose tea leaves, sugar, milk and water in a pan on the stove. While it takes almost no extra time to do this, it’s a little more work/messier, so our morning routine is to make the tea and then add the milk to cool it down to a drinkable temperature (we tend to not add sugar, even though it tastes good!).
*You can use tea bags if you’re in a pinch, but the flavor is more intense if you use tea leaves. We get our (hard-to-find decaf) loose leaf tea from our favorite Denver-area tea shop, Ku Cha House of Tea. Their Decaf Vanilla Black Tea works especially well in Masala Chai!
If you are a fan of the Bollywood Popcorn at Trader Joe’s, you’ll be happy to hear that it’s super easy (and we think even more delicious) to make your own.