Thursday, December 18, 2008

Masala Tea (or that stuff your Grandma uses to make her house smell good on Christmas)

I've been hooked on this stuff for a few months now, courtesy of my Bulgarian girlfriend.

It's supposed to be soothing or relaxing, and compared to full caf coffee, it certainly is! Also, it tastes great, and although it has nothing to do with Christmas, it smells a lot like that stuff that your grandma used to simmer on the stove all day (no, not the gibblets!).

Grandma wanted to make the house smell good before the relatives showed up, so she simmered fragrant spices in a stovetop potpourri, filling the house with that comforting scent. So, you can totally freak her out by drinking your potpourri in front of her!

Masala Tea (or chai *)

6 cups water
1 cinnamon stick, broken up
5 thinly sliced circles of fresh ginger
5 cardamom pods
5 cloves
5 peppercorns
5 allspice seeds
1 cup milk
honey or stevia to taste

Heat the water to boiling in a saucepan, then reduce it to a high simmer.

Crack open all the spices with a mortar and pestle. No need to grind, just crack them. You can crack the cinnamon stick in there, too. Live it up.

Add the cinnamon through allspice to the simmering water, allowing it to simmer until the it's reduced by about half. Stir in the milk and sweetener, adjusting to desired sweetness. Heat through, strain into cups or a teapot and serve. There will be spices in the bottom, but that's part of the charm. Sip, don't gulp, and you'll be fine.

Experiment. Adjust certain spices up or down, more or less milk, add or remove things. You can google it and find a million recipes, so you can't be wrong.

Other good additions are:

nutmeg (grated or ground)
coriander seed (cracked)
anise seed or star anise pods (cracked)
vanilla bean (it's actually a good use for that one bean that you thought was too dried up to use)
black or green tea (yes, you can actually put tea in the tea)
various sugars vs the honey
more milk (many do it 50/50 tea to milk) or maybe some half and half

Anyhow, make what you like, there's no wrong way.

* Chai means tea in places that aren't the US. Chai is not the confused with the crap at Starbucks or chia, which is that grass that's grown on little clay donkeys (as seen on TV).


  1. Anything short of 3 whole cinnamon sticks usually leaves me wanting more cinnamon. I think the first time I gave you the recipe I said 3.

    The other day I used all the spices over again by leaving them on the open burner turned down to 1/9. I think that's only possible when you cook on a ceramic/iron plate, tho.

  2. I did try it that way, but I found that taking one stick and smashing it up added more flavor than several whole sticks.

    We'll play...

  3. Sounds Delish Roland and Gayla. I can't wait to try it


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