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chai spices

  • thew Dec 4, 2007 10:43 AM

i make chai often (well sorta i dont boil it all together in milk with a truckload of sugar, like in india...) and i vary the spices and amounts all the time.... just curious what spices you all use.. which ones you think are indispensable .... i find that u need black pepper, cumin and cardamom... i usually also add some fenugreek, maybe ginger maybe fennel... etc etc etc

you?

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  1. I don't like too many spices or too much sugar in chai. I also don't like the way many people in India boil chai - too tannic. My daily morning chai goes like this:
    Grate a little fresh ginger into a small saucepan - oh about a teaspoon. Pour in about 3/5 of a large mug of water over the grater and into the saucepan. Add a cardamom pod (optional) and a 1.5 teaspoon of sugar. Measure out two scant teaspoons of Brooke Bond Red Label Tea in a little bowl. Bring contents of saucepan to a rolling boil, covered on medium heat. Bring contents of saucepan to a rolling boil, covered, on medium heat. Uncover the saucepan, throw in the tea, pull saucepan off heat and cover right away. Let tea steep while you microwave 2/5 mug of 1% milk for about 2 minutes to get it really hot. Grab strainer and strain tea from saucepan into mug. Stir, enjoy. A big no-no in my chai routine is letting the water continue to boil once the tea goes in, and another is steeping for longer than 2-3 minutes.

    1. Whoa -- cumin and fenugreek? I never thought of those.

      Cardamom, ginger, cinnamon are the main ones. Sometimes black pepper.

      I like the boiled milk and sugar taste. I don't boil the tea forever though; I add it at the end.

      Also I make other hot "teas" (with or without the actual tea leaves) with fennel plus other warm spices, and also mint (not with the other spices, sometimes with tea leaves).

      5 Replies
      1. re: brittle peanut

        What commercial brands come closest to home-made chai?

        I have bought Celestial Seasonings and Good Earth brands of Chai. Good Earth includes among its ingredients star anise. Both brands also include chicory root. I like the fact that both do not include sugar. I think one of the best brands for the quality of its ingredients is the Yogi Tea brand. (I normally buy the decaffinated version of Good Earth's Chai.) I have seen in the market tea aisle, companies that make Chai not only from black tea but from green tea.

        In the past I have had chai made by a religious group and it was very rich and creamy. I wouldn't want to know how much cream/milk proportion and sugar were used in its creation, but it is the richest version of chai I have ever had.

        1. re: FelafelBoy

          Are you looking for a total mix, where all you add is water? Or a spice mix to which you add your own water, milk, tea, sugar as desired?

          There are several spice mixes (tea masala / chai masala), and they all list the spices contained. I haven't found the one I've bought to be too spicy/peppery, but when in doubt, just buy some ground ginger and use that.

          In Indian stores, you can also find tea bags with spices in. You could try that.

          1. re: FelafelBoy

            I'm a sucker for chai and have been trying to perfect a recipe for a few years... so far, nothing I've come up with has been as good as my expectations.

            For the office, I've bought all the brands I can find and only 3 brands have stood out.
            Celestial Seasonings. 'Bengal Spice' is excellent - tho', if you want a caffeine kick, you need to add actual tea to the mix.
            Their Rooibos/Morrocan teas are also nicely spiced.

            Tazo Chai & Good Earth Chai are also very good.

            On the other hand, I've been disappointed by the Celestial Seasonings teas that they actually call Chai (ex. Indian Spice Chai). these seem either bitter/tannic or tasteless. I can't figure out why they haven't just caffeinated their Bengal Spice recipe.

            Also, I've been disappointed by brands that precombine chai with with sugar/milk. While I like overly sweet tea... these are too sweet for me.

            Home.. .I make 2-3 qts at at time and use peppercorns (20-40), cloves (10-15), cinnamon stick (2-3 inches), cardamon (10-20), black cardamon (5-10), ginger (heaping ts, grated). I often add a 1-2 teabags of Tazo Orange to the mix when I add the black tea, just cause I have it on hand right now.

            1. re: gardenkat

              Speaking as someone who makes this sort of tea nearly every day....I think it's best to skip the mix and make it at home. I find that the cooking of the milk with the sugar and spices adds considerable depth of flavor (that cannot be achieved merely by bringing them to a boil and then pouring into a cup). That is but one reason I wouldn't go for a mix (another reason is that it's relatively fast, cheap, and easy to just do it from scratch).

          2. re: brittle peanut

            If you go to an Indian market, you will probably find a spice mix labelled "chai masala", but be forewarned that they DO use black pepper...a lot. I bought the masala and it sits in my cupboard because it is a bit too peppery. Someday I'll figure out another use for it.

          3. I use peppercorns, cloves, whole allspice, cinnamon stick, dried orange or lemon peel and sliced ginger. I brew a big batch of tea with the spices and keep it strained and ready to be mixed with milk, honey and vanilla.

            1. With the cold weather here in full force, i have been making masala chai in the evenings. i use grated fresh ginger, black pepper (whole) , stick cinammon, single clove and cardamom. i mix milk and water equal proportions and then add tetley orange pekoe tea. bring to boil and then pour into mug. i dont let it boil for a while but since the ginger is fresh the infusion is pretty good and strong enough for me. you can vary the amount to taste which i like to do.

              1. Add a big pinch Saffron to a cup of boiling water before adding the tea leaves, for black tea. It tastes terrific sweetened with honey.
                Or add a big pinch of saffron to hot milk ( do not heat the milk with saffron in it) and strain the strands of saffron after infusing for 20-25 min. Then heat the milk if needed for pouring over tea.

                Methi and cumin? really?

                1 Reply
                1. re: JiyoHappy

                  For 2 cups of water and two cups of milk, I use about 12 tellicherry peppercorns, 10 cloves, 2 inches of ceylan cinnamon, 8 green cardamom pods, 1/4 inch ginger in thin slices, 2 stars of anise, 1-2 tablespoons of honey and 2 tablespoons of black Assam tea.
                  I sometimes change the anise for 1/2 teaspoon of fennel Lucknow.

                2. Real authentic chai is very easy. In India we just use a little fresh grated ginger, green cardamom crushed, and sometimes a few leaves of tulsi..i think in english its similar to basil. Most homes keep tulsi in their gardens, its an auspicious plant.
                  . All that cinnamon, peppercorn, etc...is the Americanized version, and unecessary..it appeals to American tastes that uses so much cinnamon in desserts, etc..while Indian cooking with Cinnamon is mostly subtle. Just a flavor enhancer..or for ayurvedic use.

                  Make sure to use loose leaf black tea..if you really want real "chai" The stuff in teabags is the worst quality tea.
                  To make mine, I usually measure the a teacup worth of milk, into my cup, then put about a 1/4 c. water into a sauce pan, and gently boil the ginger/elachi, then add sugar to taste, usually about three teaspoons, and the tea leaves, heaping teaspoon.. adding the tea leaves and allowing them to boil, wont scald the milk, and helps to keep it from becoming too tannin..then add the milk, and just warm it until it reaches the temperature that you can easily sip it and not boil your tongue..Mmm..thats good chai.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: poodiesgirl

                    When in doubt, just stick with ginger.