Traditional masala chai is a spiced beverage brewed black or Assam tea, with different proportions of so-called “warm” spices. The spice mixture, called Karha, uses a base of ground ginger and green cardamom pods.
Most masala chai found in restaurants or homes incorporates one or more of the following: cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, fennel seeds, black peppercorns, and cloves.
4 whole cloves
2 green cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground black peppercorns
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons black or Assam looseleaf tea, or 2 tea bags if loose tea unavailable.
Using a mortar and pestle, or a spice grinder [or the handle of a heavy kitchen knife and a sturdy cutting board], roughly crush the cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon stick. Put these in a saucepan with the water, ginger, and black pepper, and bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let spices brew for 3-5 minutes.
Add milk and sugar to saucepan and return to a boil. Remove pan from heat and add tea to milky spice mixture. Cover and steep an additional 3-5 minutes.
Stir chai, then pour through a strainer into a warmed tea pot or individual cups or mugs. Makes 2 or 3 servings.