With the end of a particularly hot and humid summer on the horizon, it’s time to finish up your fresh-squeezed lemonade, bid farewell to that well-worn grill, and let's turn our collective attention to the tastes, smells, and colors of fall. Indeed, fall is the season where the world’s most beloved spices take center stage, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, just to name a few.
Where drinks are concerned, nothing beats the flavors of fall. Tempt your seasonal taste buds with some local apple cider, pumpkin spiced anything or a nice mug of evening mulled wine. Add fresh-brewed chai to the equation and there you have it, the beverage-circle is complete.
On the topic of chai or more specifically, masala chai (roughly translated as spiced tea), the possibilities are endless. The beloved Indian “street tea” has grown immensely popular around the world, with many options and taste profiles to fit any palette. You can purchase premade liquid chai (heat and drink) for an easy fix, steep a loose leaf masala chai blend from your favorite tea shop. Or, if you're feeling creative and want a chai made to your exact specifications, make your own masala chai from scratch. The ingredients vary by taste, but some key ingredients should be considered.
Start with the tea:
Your masala chai journey begins with a strong black tea. Here is a good rule of thumb to remember, the stronger the tea, the heartier the cup. Crushed or more specifically, broken leaf tea offers the strongest option for steeping a brisk cup. Broken leaf (BOP or Broken Orange Pekoe on the tea grading scale) is just as it sounds, tea leaves that have been broken into smaller pieces or even granulated to fit into tea bags. These teas tend to steep stronger and make a perfect base for chai. As for region, Assam, India makes a mighty strong cuppa.
* For a caffeine-free version use rooibos herbal tea instead of black tea.
Spice it up:
Now for the really fun part, adding your favorite spices. There are no rules per se for what spices you should use when preparing chai, but some standards are highly recommended, such as whole peppercorns for a zesty base.
Here are some other great spice suggestions for mixing chai: cardamom pods, whole cloves, cinnamon chips, shaved nutmeg, dried ginger root pieces, whole allspice. Remember to go lighter with certain spices as they can overpower your blend. Let common sense and personal preference be your guiding light.
Make it light and sweet:
Traditionally, milk and sugar is an important element to the chai experience, but options abound in making your chai a truly individual experience.
Milk alternatives: soy milk, almond milk, oat milk. Sugar alternatives: honey, agave
The Chai Tea Kit from Sullivan Street Tea & Spice Company contains everything you need to make your own tasty Chai tea from scratch! You can spice it up or serve it mellow, the choice is yours. This is the perfect kit for cooks and Chai tea lovers alike!
Follow this chai recipe:
Here is a great recipe for traditional stove top chai.
1 cinnamon stick (or flat teaspoon of cinnamon chips)
6 whole green cardamom pods
6 whole cloves
1 flat teaspoon of ginger root pieces
4-6 whole black peppercorns
3 cups water
1 heaping tablespoon of loose Assam black tea (broken leaf preferred)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (honey is a great alternative)
1 cup milk or dairy alternative (soy milk, almond milk, oat milk)
Method (serves 4):
Place cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, peppercorns and water into a small pot and bring to a rapid boil. Cover, reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to let spices steep for 10 minutes.
Return pot to heat and bring back to a boil. Remove from heat, add tea, cover and set aside to let steep for 3-4 minutes. Strain through cotton culinary bag or fine mesh sieve, discarding solids and then return liquids to pot. Stir in sugar and milk and heat over low-heat for 1 minute. Pour into cups.
Enjoy the fall!