My first instinct is always to reduce rather than to add. Masala chai as we know it has a whole array of spices – whole and ground – that makes up its base. My version here, has just three (two actually, since the third is fresh mint leaves). As with many old recipes, there is no definitive version – but if you were to order a cup of masala chai in a tea shop in India, you would most likely find the bold notes of cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom. And no mint. Definitely no mint.
I love cloves, cinnamon, and peppercorns, just not in my chai. I find that the presence of so many distinct spices together drown out the flavour of the tea; it overpowers.
Fresh ginger, bruised with the flat of your knife releases its spicy oils from within and the cardamom is given the same treatment with some light bashing. I use a mortar and pestle to speed up this process, but just do as you prefer. The use of mint in this tea borrows from the Moroccan palate. Although it’s quite unorthodox to pair this zingy herb with ginger and cardamom (in a milk tea!) it works really well here. This is a pleasing bonus especially when you have a constant overflow of mint on your balcony.
After a whole load of mint dishes that have sprung up all week in the form of chutneys to soups to salads, this masala chai having found its spot here is quite a boast. Is less really more in this instance?
- 3 tsps black tea (I like to use tea granules, but tea leaves would work just as well)
- 4 cardamom pods
- 1 inch piece of ginger
- 1/8 cup milk (or to taste)
- 10-12 mint leaves
- Sugar, to taste
- Halve the ginger and bruise it with the flat of your knife. Crush the cardamom pods to release the seeds within (retaining the pods), and set both aside. I like to use a mortar and pestle to pound both the ginger and cardamom together.
- Heat 1 3/4 cups of water along with ginger, mint leaves, and cardamom pods and seeds. When the water starts to heat up (just before it comes to the boil), reduce the flame and add the tea granules. Turn off the heat; let the tea and spices steep for 1 minute.
- Pour enough milk to get the desired colour, and strain into cups. Add sugar to taste and serve immediately.
For tea leaves, follow packet instructions for brewing.
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