If I was told I had to stop drinking coffee, I would put up a serious fight. However, if I were told I could have spicy sweet chai anytime I wanted it, instead of coffee, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash. It’s that good.
This week has been very cold here, and I have felt particularly crummy. It was the perfect time to indulge in days of this delightful beverage. Originally I tried drinking Stash Chai Spice, which was simple and yummy, but I found I was allergic to it. That catapulted me into the researching and experimentation on how to make the perfect chai myself, with ingredients that my body can handle. Now I like the depth of flavor and aroma of my homemade version the best!
I like to use the name Masala Chai, since masala means “a mixture of spices” and chai means “tea.” There are endless variations to how to make it. This allows you to custom tailor it to your individual taste. I went to a small local Indian market to buy whole spices and loose leaf tea. You can also purchase them online or at your grocery store. The important thing s to use whole spices, not ground. Not only does this improve the taste, it gives you the full benefit of these amazing spices.
Recipe: Masala Chai
4 cups water
1 inch (2.5 cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 (4 inch, 10 cm) stick cinnamon
4 green cardamom pods
5 whole cloves
6 whole peppercorns (black or white)
1 1/2 tablespoons black tea leaves
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup cream (half and half)
Peel and slice the ginger. Grind or crush the dry spices. I did this by putting them in a bag and pressing down on them with a heavy flat object. Bring water to boil in a saucepan. Add spices and reduce to medium high to simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and add tea leaves to water. Let steep for 5 minutes.
Using a mesh strainer or cheesecloth, strain tea by pouring from pot into another container.
At this point, you can add milk and sweetener to the pot with the tea and warm it up together, or keep the milk separate so the tea can be conserved for later use. I drink it all quickly, so I put everything back into the saucepan and heat it up together. Serve it nice and hot.
At first I was hesitant at the amount of sweetener and milk recommended by most recipes, but as I began to use more, I found the taste and spices took on an even greater flavor. You can adjust both as you desire. I use Splenda Brown Sugar Blend, which has half the calories of regular brown sugar. You could also use granulated sugar, honey or agave nectar. You can also make a lighter beverage by using less fat milk and skipping the cream. It is heavenly, however, when very sweet.
Healing Power of Spices
The combination of these spices offers a powerhouse of natural healing.
Cinnamon: strengthens the heart, stimulates the kidneys and improves circulation. Sooths colds and nervous tension.
Cloves: antiseptic, helps numb the digestive system and reduce gastric pain.
Ginger: warms the body, sooths fever and nausea. Combats cardiac disorders since it has anti-coagulant and anticholesterol properties. Relieves rheumatic pain.
Cardamom: antispasmodic, aids in digestion; sooths the throat.
Black Pepper: antibacterial; aids digestion; prevents disease.
These descriptions are from the Ayurveda, the ancient medical system of India, as described in Spices of Life, by Nina Simonds.
Please note that I am not a medical professional or nutritionist, but rather one writing based on my own experience and research. Do not take spices as remedies, or in place of medicines you have been prescribed, without consulting with a trained professional.
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