Actually, the word ‘chai’ simply means ‘tea’ in India, and what we’re really talking about is masala chai, or spiced tea. It’s dead simple and straightforward to make masala chai at home, by simply brewing up some tea with whole spices on your stovetop.
If, like my daughter, you prefer an instant chai mix, I have just the recipe for you. It’s based on one I found on the internet, and tweaked to my own taste.
One ingredient that stumped me though, was the ‘instant tea’ referred to in the original recipe, because to the best of my knowledge no such thing exists in South Africa.
Enter Carmien Tea instant rooibos powder! It dissolves and easily in hot liquid, and is the perfect addition to this great recipe. Order it direct from their website www.carmientea.co.za.
If you don’t have instant tea powder, just leave it out and stir your chai latte mix into a mug of ready-made tea. With the instant rooibos tea you can add the chai mix to hot milk, or even hot water. 2 T (30 ml) is enough for 350 ml liquid.
I’ve left out the sugar from the original recipe as I found it way too sweet for my taste, and I think in general most people prefer to sweeten their own tea anyway. Instant full cream or low-fat milk powder is sold in almost all supermarkets. If instant non-dairy creamer like Cremora is your thing, you can use that too, although I really don’t like the taste or texture.
I’ve included a traditional, non-instant masala chai recipe at the bottom of the post, for those who prefer it. And yes, of course you can make it at fresh at home, with simple, easy-to-find ingredients. (Note: when buying spices, do always make sure to buy small quantities from a merchant with a high turnover, which will assure the spices are still fresh. Stale spices lose their pungency and therefore their seductive aroma. )
Make it with Ceylon tea if you need a lift (the tannin is a stimulant), or use Rooibos (tannin-free) when you’re aiming to get some sleep.
I like my brew of masala chai so strong a teaspoon can stand up in it, and I like it hot enough to steam up my glasses! The fun part of making your own masala chai is adapting the spice mix to your own taste.
Some like the addition of spices like vanilla, fennel seeds and peppercorns, others don’t. Most agree cinnamon is a must, as are cardamom, ginger, star anise, cloves, milk and sweetener. One of my friends likes adding a fresh bay leaf to his brew, too!
It goes without saying that using rice, almond, soy or nut milks for your chai is A-OK.
I suppose if you really wanted to, you could leave out all sweetener, but unsweetened chai to me seems a bit like a kiss without a hug.
Now, let’s put the kettle on, shall we?
Instant Chai Latte Mix
INSTANT CHAI LATTE MIX
Makes about 5 1/2 cups mix. It will last up to 3 months stored in a cool, dry place in an airtight container.
2 cups (500 ml) instant milk powder, full-cream or low-fat
1 cup (250 ml) powdered non-dairy creamer (if you don’t like this, simply use 3 cups milk powder)
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) castor sugar (optional)
1 cup (250ml) instant rooibos tea
2 T (30 ml) ground ginger
2 T (30 ml) ground cinnamon
1 T (15 ml) ground cloves
1 T (15 ml) ground nutmeg
1 T (15 ml) ground cardamom (use your electric spice grinder for this
2 t (10 ml) vanilla paste if you can get some
- In a large bowl, combine milk powder, non-dairy creamer if used, instant rooibos and spices. Stir well until thoroughly blended. Grind 1/2 cup at a time in your spice grinder to get the mixture to a fine powder. Store in a clean, dry jar with tight-fitting screw-on lid.
- To serve: Stir 2 heaping tablespoons chai latte mixture into a mug of hot water or hot milk. If you haven’t used instant rooibos, add 2 heaping tablespoons of chai latte mix to a mug of made tea.
Fresh Masala Chai – Indian spiced tea
Warming, calming to the nervous system and utterly delicious.
Makes 8 cups/ 2 litres
4 teabags –Ceylon or Rooibos
5 cups (1 250 ml) water
1 t (5 ml) powdered ginger or 2 t (10 ml) grated fresh
2 x 5 cm sticks cinnamon
6 cardamom seedpods, whole
1 star anise
1 vanilla pod
8 whole cloves
50 ml – 80ml raw organic honey to taste
3 cups (750 ml) low-fat organic cow’s or soy milk
- Bring the water to a boil with all the ingredients except the honey and milk. Turn the heat down, put the lid on and simmer gently for about half an hour.
- Pour through a strainer into a clean saucepan, discard the solids and add the milk and honey to the spiced tea. Warm gently and serve hot or cold.