Seeing my smiling children being thankful for their breakfast should be enough to get me out of bed in the morning. But a hot cup of tea helps, too. And if I am looking for a special treat, I brew myself a cup of hot masala chai. Come and cook with us!
Most Americans love coffee in the morning, but ever since Jessica and I took an Indian cooking class with Napa-based Indian chef (and Food Network show Chopped champion) Neela Paniz, I’ve turned to making hot spiced tea, specifically masala chai. The main ingredient is masala, a basic mixture of spices (the word masala comes from the Arabic and means seasonings) which includes spices such as green cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and sometimes black pepper. If you’re a purist, use either Assam or Ceylon tea leaves, but I like Darjeeling the best. Masala tea is brewed in various strengths depending on the quantity of the tea leaves, the amount and type of chai masala and the length of time the tea is steeped.
There are many different versions of masala chai recipes. One way to do it is to throw just about everything in a pot of water and then simmer, add the milk, tea leaves and the sweetener and brew for a few minutes. Or you can let the spices soak overnight in the water and then just simmer in the morning with your tea leaves and milk. I’ve included Jessica’s favorite, which starts with boiling the milk, spices and honey from the beginning and adding the loose tea at the end. There is no right or wrong way, just try and see what you like best.
However you get to your end product, masala chai is a refreshing drink, both in cold weather and on hot days, adding that little kick from the warming (and according to Ayurvedic wisdom, also healing) qualities of the Indian spices that are not commonly used in our Western cuisine. Hope you find the time to try masala chai and make it part of your morning routine. Come and cook with us!