Often referred to as Chai, spiced tea comes in many forms, simply because chai is a word for tea in numerous languages, derived from Mandarin Chinese chá. What many of us think of as chai, is actually masala chai. The word masala is an indian term for a mix of spices. So we have masala chai, aka spiced tea. Once masala chai made its way across various oceans, it dropped its first name and become lovingly referred to as just chai.
Going back to the early 20th century, although India was a big producer of tea, consumption of black tea within India remained low, until various campaigns by the Indian Tea Association to promote tea. The official promotion of tea was as served in the English mode, with small added amounts of milk and sugar. People in India added the spices, that we now associate with masala chai. The staple players being cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom, fennel and pepper; we have them to thank for that.
And exactly for that reason, there is no one recipe for masala chai. For as many various regions as there are in India, there are just as many ways to make this spiced beverage. And, of course, it has now evolved. Guidelines will still include some spice but not always the black tea; spiced chai can now be with rooibos, green or white tea as a base.
CHAI TO TRY
Classic Stovetop Masala Chai Latte
1 tsp Masala Chai
Teaspoon of Sugar or Honey
Put the water and cinnamon stick into a saucepan, bring to the boil then put onto a low heat for a good five minutes. Add the milk, tea and sugar and let it all simmer away for another five minutes before straining into your mug. Enjoy!
Gingerbread Chai Latte ( Two Mugs )
2 tsp Gingerbread Chai
Sugar or honey
Brew Gingerbread Chai in boiling water for at least 5 minutes. You can do this on the hob, in a teapot or just in a mug. However you brew the tea, you will need to strain it into a couple of mugs ( ideally something suitably Christmassy ) when ready to serve. Add sugar or honey to the warmed milk and whisk quickly until it's all nice and frothy, then pour onto your strained chai and sprinkle with cinnamon. Gingernuts on the side are optional but highly recommended. Sit back and enjoy!
Chilli Chocolate Rum Chai ( Two Mugs )
2 tsp Chilli Chai
300ml Milk ( proper milk, not fully skimmed )
Two Shots of Dark Rum
2 Teaspoons of Brown Sugar
2 Teaspoons of Coco Powder
Put the everything apart from the rum into a saucepan, bring to the boil and then turn down and simmer for a good five minutes.Give it a good whisk, add your rum and strain into a couple of mugs. Sprinkle with nutmeg or go extra spicy and use cayenne pepper. A few squares of dark chocolate on the side will go down well. For those that like their chai with an extra kick, the chilli adds an extra taste dimension, just enough heat to lift the spice flavours.
Lovely as making Chai lattes can be, you might want to have some chai concentrate on hand so you just need to warm up with some milk when wanted. Simple to make up and will keep well for at least a week if stored properly in the fridge.
Chai Concentrate ( a good base for at least seven mugs )
Put 700ml of water in a saucepan along with some of your favorite spices. Cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves & cardamon all work well, bring to the boil and put on a low simmer for a good ten minutes, add 6 teaspoons of one of our chai blends along with four or five teaspoons of sugar, honey or maple syrup.
Let it all simmer away for another ten minutes before straining and leave to cool completely before storing in the fridge in a lidded container. You can then warm this as and when you want too, one third concentrate with two thirds milk work well.