Introduction: Indian Masala Chai (Spiced Tea)

About: art/tech/craft hacker and member of Ace Monster Toys hackerspace in Oakland, CA

Imagine, you are on the train riding south from Delhi headed toward the city of Agra, home of the famous Taj Mahal.  The warm air blows through the open bar windows as you look out over the Indian countryside.  You hear a gruff voice:  "Garam Chai, Garam Chai" and the strong smell of cardamom hits your nose.  You hand over a few rupees to the Chai Wallah, and he gives you a terra cotta cup of the best tea you've ever tasted.  This is the recipe for that tea.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

First, you must gather the proper supplies.  The trickiest part of this recipe is getting the proper tea leaves.  This may involve a trip to your local Indian market.  The key is to ask for "CTC leaf".  CTC stands for "Cut, Torn, Crushed" and is a concentrated, processed tea leaf.  You could try and make this from loose leaf Darjeeling or something fancy, but Masala Chai isn't really that kind of thing.  It comes in a bag and looks like coffee grounds.

The MOST important thing isn't what is on this list, but what is NOT on this list.  Resist the urge to through all the spices in your spice cabinet into this tea (i.e., no nutmeg, cinnamon, lemongrass, cloves, allspice, etc.)  Of course after you've had the authentic chai experience, go ahead... but I strongly suggest you make it simply at least once to see how good it is.
  1. 2 cups of milk
  2. 2 cups of water
  3. 3 tablespoons of sugar
  4. 6-7 cardamom pods (I suggest buying these in bulk at your local health food store)
  5. 4 teaspoons of CTC leaf indian tea
  6. something to strain the tea with

Step 2: The Boil

In a large saucepan, put 2 cups water, 2 cups milk, 3 Tbsp of sugar over low to medium heat.

Cut the tips off of the cardamom pods and open them up.  Put the inside of the pods into the pot and discard the hard outer casing on the pods.  Flavorful pods are very dark... if you have a bunch which are dried out and light brown, you may have to add more pods to really taste the cardamom.

Stir this mixture to dissolve the sugar, and bring it to a boil.  Be careful because it really likes to boil over.  It's ok if it does a little bit, I'm convinced it makes the tea more authentic. :)

Step 3: The Tea

Once the sugar/cardamom/water/milk mixture is boiling, then it is time to add the 4 teaspoons of CTC leaf tea.

After adding the tea, you boil it for several minutes until it gets that "chai color" as shown below.

Step 4: Strain and Serve

Now that the chai is done, it's time to strain out the leaves and cardamom pods.

I use a little tea strainer, but you could also use cheesecloth.

Close your eyes, and enjoy a taste of India!

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