My first instinct is always to reduce rather than to add. Masala chai as we know it has a whole array of spices—whole and ground—that makes up its base. My version here, has just three (two actually, since the third is fresh mint leaves). As with many old recipes, there is no definitive version – but if you were to order a cup of masala chai in a tea shop in India, you would most likely find the bold notes of cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom. And no mint. Definitely no mint.
I love cloves, cinnamon, and peppercorns, just not in my chai. I find that the presence of so many distinct spices together drown out the flavour of the tea; it overpowers. The use of mint in this tea borrows from the Moroccan palate. Although it’s quite unorthodox to pair this zingy herb with ginger and cardamom (in a milk tea!) it works really well here. Is less really more in this instance?
I followed the directions exactly when I first tested this, but found the second time around a more liberal hand produced a more flavorful tea. The two modifications that made the most difference were slicing the ginger into thin rounds (rather than just halving) and increasing the boiling/steeping time. The sliced ginger was easier to grind into the cardamom (especially without mortar and pestle), and brought out more flavor when combined with a 2-3 minute boil before adding the tea. The final product was both spicy and mellow and the mint flavor nice and subtle—overall very good! —Marie
1-inch piece of ginger
black tea (I like to use tea granules, but tea leaves would work just as well)
Halve the ginger and bruise it with the flat side of your knife. Crush the cardamom pods to release the seeds within (retaining the pods), and set both aside. I like to use a mortar and pestle to pound both the ginger and cardamom together.
Heat 1 3/4 cups of water along with ginger, mint leaves, and cardamom pods and seeds. When the water starts to heat up (just before it comes to the boil), reduce the flame and add the tea granules. Turn off the heat; let the tea and spices steep for 1 minute.
Pour enough milk to get the desired color, and strain into cups. Add sugar to taste and serve immediately.