Nowadays, I’m as consistent as clockwork. Despite the chilling darkness and the lack of warmth that summer had spoiled my mornings with, it’s actually been easier getting up in the morning. At 5:01am, the radio blares. I instinctively turn off the first alarm, knowing in the back of my mind that a second alarm is only six minutes away. At 5:07, the alarm beeps and I hop out of bed, throw on a hoodie and sweats. At this point, I’m already dressed for the gym. After quickly brushing my teeth and washing my face, I pick up my gym bag, tuck my cell phone and books into my canvas bag, and turn off the lights. Then I head into the kitchen.
This is where my morning officially starts and where the majority of the time is spent before I head off for work. No, I’m not making breakfast. I’m not even making lunch. I’m making Masala Chai tea, to be sipped and savored a few hours from that moment. The kitchen is brutally cold and uninviting, but once the stove flares up and the teapot is filled with water, I’m chopping shreds of ginger, breaking apart star anise, and pulling apart cardamom pods. Oh and the cinnamon sticks. I love inhaling the scent of fresh, whole cinnamon sticks.
Finally, there’s that moment of silence, which is suddenly broken by the bubbling of the boiling water and a hiss from the steaming pot. That’s my cue to add in the black tea leaves and then the milk. That’s it. I put the lid on the pot and turn on my laptop to quickly check my email.
These are my mornings and the whole process takes a good 10 minutes. By 5:30am, I’m out the door, picking up my paper (if my paper-boy so decides to deliver my paper on time!) and onto the Parkway by 5:35am. Sure, I could sleep an extra 10 minutes, but at 7:30am, when I’m at my desk, post-workout and sipping the then-warm Chai, it makes those 10 minutes totally worth it.
A few weeks back, I had blogged about Chai tea ice cream. Several people had asked me how I make Chai tea, so I thought it’d only be fitting to do a post on this. Chai is a morning and afternoon tradition in India. Amy would always look forward to her morning and afternoon Chai when she was in Calcutta. Glen tells me that Alex and Nick makes a bangin’ Chai and while I’ve yet to have it, these are the tips that Alex gave me:
- The ratio of water to milk should be 1:1. Always use whole milk or else the Chai will end up watery
- There are three main ingredients that you need- ginger, cardamom, and cloves. Those are a must.
- Always throw in the spices before the water boils, sans the tea leaves. As the water begins to boil, add in the tea leaves and then the milk.
- The brewing process should take several minutes to extract all that flavor from the leaves.
Chai is generally synonymous with Masala Chai, which is the spiced chai that this recipe makes
And that it folks. A simple cup of Chai that’ll do wonders for your morning and for your body.
Masala Chai Tea
Makes 2 cups!
- 4 heaping tablespoons of a mixture of Ceylon, Assam, and Darjeeling black tea*
- 1 inch ginger in slices
- 5 cardamom pods, open with seeds facing out
- 1 teaspoon cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 star anise
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup milk
*You can also buy Masala Chai tea leaves, which already have the spices (cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and cloves) blended in. Though it expedites the brewing process, there’s something to be said about fresh, wholesome ingredients. Nevertheless, I like to get my blend from Adagio teas, although their Chai is REALLY intense and I like to mellow it out with some additional black tea. If you’re new, they give you $5 off for following them on Twitter on your first order, which brings the total to a whopping $19/lb (including shipping). Sounds expensive, but it’s really quite reasonable for a pound of loose-leaf tea.
In a teapot, throw in all the spices and the water on high heat. When the water begins to boil, add in the tea leaves and the milk. Stir every once in awhile and when the tea foams, lower the heat so that the mixture just slightly boils. Let it boil for 3-5 minutes until the leaves fully open up. Serve with sugar to your taste. Chai tastes best, erring on the side of sweetness.
This post is part of a series featuring recipes from the FOOD & WINE archive. As a FOOD & WINE Blogger Correspondent, I was chosen to do four recipes a week from FOOD & WINE. I received a subscription to FOOD & WINE for my participation.