Brew It Yourself masala chai recipe
Now that we're slowly moving in to cooler weather, our bodies are craving warm, nourishing beverages — and what could be more warming and nourishing than deliciously spicy, aromatic chai? Sure, you can buy the pre-packaged stuff — but I'm of the school of thought that chai is always better when you B.I.Y (Brew It Yourself.) It's super easy, too — read on and I'll show you how!
So firstly, why drink chai? Well thanks to the vibrant mix of herbs and spices it's comprised of, chai is not only a palate-pleasing drink, it's also considered a medicinal tonic for health and digestion. Just to be clear, I'm talking about home made chai and pure store-bought chai mixes here — anything with additives or artificial flavours/ ingredients is immediately exempt from what I consider to be real, healthful chai (all the more reason to brew your own and optimise the health benefits!).
Below I've made a visual recipe that outlines everything you need to brew your own chai at home, and below that I'll quickly break down the health benefits of the herbs and spices used.
Chai tea benefits
Cinnamon — reduces cholesterol; lowers blood sugar levels; antioxidant; anti-inflammatory; anti-bacterial; assists brain function
Ginger — anti-inflammatory; anti-nausea; lowers blood sugar levels; aids digestion; assists brain function
Clove — anti-inflammatory; assists with gum and oral health; anti-microbial; aids digestion; reduces gastric discomfort
Cardamom — anti-bacterial; assists circulation; lowers blood pressure; aids healing of stomach ulcers; anti-nausea
Fennel seeds — reduces water retention (diuretic); blood cleanser; relieves indigestion; antioxidant; combats bad breath
Star anise — anti-bacterial and anti-fungal; improves digestion; mild sedative; antioxidant; aids skin health
Coriander seed — Improves digestion; lowers blood sugar levels; regulates menstrual flow; assists skin and hair health
Black pepper — boosts digestive enzymes; aids weight loss; antioxidant; assists respiratory health; assists cognitive function
Black tea — aids fat breakdown; lowers cholesterol levels; aids heart health; antioxidant; relieves stress
Masala chai recipe
Serves: 2 people (or 1, if you're like me and love to drink lots of chai!)
I don't have exact ratios for you as I like to encourage people to follow their intuition when it comes to making their own chai blend. This way you can increase flavours you love, and reduce flavours you don't love so much.
But here's the general gist:
1 cup water
1 cup milk (I use non-dairy milk — oat, macadamia or cashew works well)
1-2 teaspoons loose leaf black tea (or rip open a teabag) depending on strength desired — today I used 1.5 teaspoons. Note: Kicking the caffeine? Substitute the black tea for dandelion root to make this a yummy, liver-cleansing dandy chai.
Big, generous pinch of ground cinnamon (or a cinnamon stick)
Smaller pinch of ground ginger
Small pinch of ground coriander
1 large star anise
3 cardamom pods
Pinch of fennel seeds
2-3 black peppercorns
Step 1. I like to first put the non-ground ingredients (so the cloves, cardamom, fennel seeds, black peppercorns and star anise) into a mortar and pestle and muddle them a bit to release the aromatics.
Step 2. Next, get a small saucepan with lid (big enough to hold at least 2 cups of liquid) onto the stove on low heat. Add all of the dry ingredients except the black tea (or dandelion root). With a wooden spoon, move and stir the herbs and spices around the saucepan. What we want to do is gently heat (not burn) the herbs and spices to release the aromatics. Once fragrant, add in the black tea or dandelion root, stir, and then immediately add in 1 cup of milk followed by 1 cup of water. Stir and put on saucepan lid.
Step 3. Now we can increase the temperature slightly to bring the chai to a slow and gentle boil to delicately allow the flavours to alchemise, rather than boiling them at full throttle. This may take a bit, so if you walk away, be sure to come back and check regularly — I can't tell you how many times I've turned away for a minute only to rush back to the the sounds and messy sight of milky chai boiling over on the stove!
Step 4. Once at a nice easy boil, you should now notice that the chai has transformed from a pale, milky colour, to a lovely creamy brown. If you're short on time you can take the chai off now, but I like to reduce the temperature again and let the chai simmer for a few minutes longer. The longer you simmer, the deeper the colour, the richer the brew, and the more potent the flavour!
Step 5. Once you're happy with the look of the brew, take it off the heat, and if you like it on the sweeter side, you can now drizzle in a bit of honey. Strain the mixture into a jug or teapot, and voila!
I like to serve my chai in small, delicate cups and keep topping up. I feel this encourages you to slow down, take little sips and savour the flavour. Plus, maybe I'm crazy, but I swear it tastes better this way too?! One of my favourite parts of visiting India was hunting down the street chai stands to relish in the joy of drinking small, warm cups of freshly made chai. Enjoy!
P.S Can't be bothered making a spice mix every time you want to drink chai? Simply use my recipe guidelines to up the ratios of the dry ingredients tenfold and mix in a bowl. Store your chai blend in an airtight jar and measure out two heaped teaspoons per 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of water each time you're ready to get your chai on!