The flavor of this Masala Chai recipe is herbal, peppery and sweet, it manages a depth of flavor that is both bold and delicate.
My introduction to chai didn’t take place until my early twenties. It seems a bit crazy that it took this long for me to discover chai considering that both it and I are from India. At a young age I was adopted from India and brought up in America. My adoptive father’s heritage is Italian and my mother’s is Scottish so needless to say chai was anything but common and it hadn’t made a splash in the coffee shop, scene yet.
My close friend was really the catalyst for my first experience with chia. We were living in a little apartment in Washington D.C. where we spent countless hours together on our porch drinking various beverages and doing some serious people watching.
It was a brisk spring day perfect for a cup of tea on the porch and apparently my friend thought so too. I arrived home from work to find our apartment warm and fragrant, the air thick with the smell of spices. The aroma was reminiscent of your typical “pumpkin pie” spice blend. My friend was in our tiny kitchen cheerfully standing over a pot of simmering water. The water was bronzed with a myriad of ambrosial whole spices gently dancing in the movement of the liquid.
She turns and smiles, “I just got some fresh spices from the co-op and thought I’d make some chai tea. You want some? It comes from India you know. ” Hmmm….. cool day…..fresh spices….. warm tea…..and a taste of my motherland, I figured sure, why not? To be honest I wasn’t expecting much more than a cup of overbearing flavors that would have me pushing my cup aside after a few sips. I couldn’t have been more wrong! This cup of chia has lived in infamy in my mind ever since. The mahogany color of the tea and spices were made almost silken with the addition of warm, whole milk. The flavor was herbal, peppery and sweet. The tea managed a depth of flavor that was both bold and delicate. I was hooked and for a time I was lucky enough to live with my favorite chai maker.
It’s been years since those days and I have come across many cups of chai since. All of them were underwhelming, lacking spice, overly sweet and paltry. I never lost hope of finding that perfect cup of Masala Chai. I made it myself a time or two but found the careful brewing needed to achieve that perfect cup was often to tedious or time-consuming for my schedule.
One day while perusing the internet, I came across this chai recipe on Food 52. It was genius. The recipe called for combining a ground spice mixture with sweetened condensed milk. The resulting syrup can be added to a pot of tea for many or a cozy cup for one. Even more, this recipe is a cinch to make and has a shelf life of up to six months when kept in the refrigerator.
I adjusted the spices to reflect my memory of that amazing first cup of Masala Chai. The spices in this recipe are not timid. This is a full flavored cup of tea but artfully so. As if chai wasn’t good enough already, its ingredients have been cited as having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well as aiding in digestion and increased circulation. I have also added a vegan alternative to be sure that no one has to forego this great recipe. So really, what’s not to like? Lets get sipping!
- 14 oz sweetened condensed milk (use sweetened condensed coconut milk for vegan version)
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon dried (ground ginger)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- seeds from one vanilla bean
- pinch of sea salt
- In a medium bowl combine all of the ingredients. Mix until fully incorporated.
- Pour the syrup into a clean jar fitted with an airtight lid (mason jar type).
- The masala chai syrup will keep for up to six months in the refrigerator.
- Stir 1-2 tablespoons of syrup into a cup of freshly brewed black tea and drink up.
- The ratio of tea to syrup is a personal preference so feel free to adjust the ratio to your liking
- The spices in the syrup will settle over time so be sure to stir the syrup before use.
- I recommend using fresh organic spices to achieve the best flavor. Old spices loss much of their essential oil and their flavor is muted
- Instead of throwing away the leftover vanilla pod I recommend adding if to your sugar jar to create wonderful vanilla scented sugar.
Special Equipment: Glass jars with air tight lid, such as mason jars Adapted from: Lillie Auld of Butter Me Up Brooklyn