Spiced Chai - The Veritable 'cuppa tea'

Chai is simply the generic word for tea in Hindi and many other languages around the world, and was adopted into British slang as "cha" or "char".  Although coffee is a more popular beverage in South India, Chai is ubiquitous throughout South Asia, where street vendors called "chai wallahs" can be found on almost every street.
The traditional chai-brewing process boils or simmers the tea leaves over sustained heat, instead of steeping them in preheated water as it cools down. 
The simplest traditional method of preparing 'spiced chai' or 'masala chai' is to actively simmer or boil a mixture of milk and water with loose leaf tea, sweeteners, and whole spices. Indian markets all over the world sell various brands of "chai masala," for this purpose, though many households blend their own. The solid tea and spice residues are strained off from the chai before serving.
The method may vary according to taste or local custom: for example, some households may combine all of the ingredients together at the start, bring the mixture to a boil, then immediately strain and serve; others may leave the mixture simmering for a longer amount of time, or begin by bringing the tea leaves to a boil and only add the spices toward the end (or vice-versa). There is no fixed recipe for masala chai and many families have their own versions of the tea. The tea leaves steep in the hot water long enough to extract intense flavor. Because of the large range of possible variations, masala chai can be considered a class of tea rather than a specific kind. However, all masala chai has the following four basic components: Tea, Milk, Sweetener and spices
Here is my favorite recipe for Masala Chai.  Try it out and tell me what you think!

Serves 2

2 tsp black tea leaves or dust.
2 cups water
1/2 cup milk
1 inch fresh ginger, crushed or 1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/4 tsp cardomom powder
1/4 tsp black pepper powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp fennel powder
Sugar or sweetener to taste

In a saucepan, add water and all the spices and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium, add the tea leaves and simmer for a few minutes.  Add milk, and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils,turn off the heat, and cover the saucepan for 2 minutes.  Pour the tea through a strainer, into 2 cups.  If the tea looks too strong, add a little milk, until it is a creamy red/brown color.  Add sweetener, stir and enjoy!

Authors note:
I like to use fresh ginger and freshly ground spices in my tea, for best flavor, however ready ground spices can be used. Ready Chai masala is conveniently available in Indian Stores. For a simpler variation, try using just the ginger ( omit all the other spices).  Hot Ginger tea is soooo good to drink during these cold winter months and is great for a cough and cold.


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