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Masala chai (spiced tea)

Written By Reena on 18 Mar 2011 | 05:00

Masala chai is tea prepared with a blend of spices (a masala).  The tea leaves are heated with the water, milk and spices from cold as opposed to brewing with already hot water.  You can buy ready made tea masala in most Indian grocery stores but Indian families tend to have their own masala recipes.

As I mentioned in the garam masala post a few weeks ago, my mum found my grandfather's notes a while ago.  Amongst them was the family recipe for chai masala.  I have detailed the recipe below but the quantities involved are aimed at the masala chai addict* rather than the occasional drinker.  As such feel free to make your tea (the second recipe below) using a shop-bought masala.

* You know that you are an addict when you get a headache if you haven't had your regular fix (not naming any names, mum...!).

My grandfather's chai masala recipe

  • 1/2 lb black peppercorns
  • 1/2 lb white peppercorns
  • 1 oz cardamon pods
  • 1 oz Indian valerian rhizome (aka ganthoda)
  • 1 oz dried ginger powder
  • 3 nutmeg seeds
  • 1/4 lb cinnamon
  1. Heat a completely clean and dry pan for several minutes until it is so hot that a drop of water evaporates immediately. 
  2. Now add the the black peppercorns and toss until they start releasing their aroma.  Be careful not to dry roast them for too long as they will burn.
  3. Remove the black peppercorns from the heat and crush finely using a pestle and mortar.
  4. Repeat steps 1 - 3 with each of the remaining spices.
  5. Mix all of the crushed, dry roasted spices and store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

To make a nice cup of masala chai

Serves 2


  • 5 grams root ginger
  • 100 millilitres milk
  • 350 millilitres water
  • 1/4 teaspoon chai masala (homemade or shop bought)
  • 2 teaspoons strong Indian tea leaves
  • sugar to taste
  1. Crush the ginger using a blunt object - e.g. the handle of a large knife.  Don't attack it too hard - this is purely to release some of the flavour.
  2. Place the ginger, milk, water, chai masala and tea leaves into a small pan.
  3. Heat on a high heat until the mixture comes to the boil.  It will start foaming and then gushing towards the top of the pan.  Take care not to let the tea over-boil onto the hob, removing the pan from the heat if necessary.
  4. Now reduce the heat to low.
  5. Gently stir the tea and leave to simmer for 3-4 minutes or until the tea has a golden brown colour (paler if you prefer weaker tea).
  6. Strain the tea into cups using a tea strainer or fine sieve.
  7. Serve immediately with sugar if required.
NB: All families vary the proportions of milk and water.  Feel free to adjust these to your own tastes.  This recipe is how my mum likes to drink her tea - most Indians prefer more milk.

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