Monday, April 20, 2009

Why Hot Masala Chai is So COOL !

Masala Chai :
A beverage from the Indian subcontinent made by brewing with a mixture of aromatic Indian spices and herbs. By itself,Chai is merely a generic word for Tea in much of the world, but for many English speakers outside those regions, "Chai" is always construed as "masala chai".Gourmet grade Masala Chai is easy to make at home without spending a fortune. One can add the ingredients as per the taste and can make a mixture for storage or when in hurry.
I am a Masala Chai drinker and drink every day without fail. It has become very trendy to drink a masala chai. However, masala chai has lot of health benefits due to its ingredients. Tea leaves, main ingredient, has lot of antioxidants. Spice mixture/blend has medicinal properties of digestion, reduced blood sugar level, vitality, stimulation and carmanative.

The traditional masala chai is a bracing, strongly spiced beverage brewed with so-called "warm" spices. Most masala chai incorporates one or more of the following: cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, fennel seeds, nutmeg, peppercorn, and cloves. Traditionally, cardamom ( Queen of Spices) is a dominant and gives the flavor. Indian masala mixture and cuisine also commonly use other spices such as cloves, ginger, or black pepper; the latter two add a pleasantly piquant flavor. In India, for example, fresh ginger is usually used.  The Kashmir version of chai is brewed with green tea instead of black tea and has a more subtle blend of flavorings: almonds, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and sometimes saffron.

Normal Method of Preparation:

The simplest traditional method of preparing 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," (Hindi चाय मसाला [chāy masālā], "tea spice" ) for this purpose, though many households blend their own. The solid tea and spice residues are strained off from masala 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 or preparation method for masala chai and many families have their own versions of the tea. The tea leaves (or tea dust) steep in the hot water long enough to extract intense flavor, ideally without releasing the bitter tannins. 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 leaves, Sugar, Milk and Spices.

My Gourmet Method : For two cups or small tea pot
Boil the water in a tea pot and drop a tea spoon of Tea leaves (don't use tea bag cut or powdered tea) for smooth taste. Add the following spices:
1) Real Ceylon Cinnamon bristles from the stick or use 1/4 tbsn of powder. Ceylon cinnamon sticks are easy to break with hand. I use Ceylon cinnamon because it gives the sweet taste. Regular Cinnamon (called cassia ) sold in most grocery stores gives you spicy taste. Cassia Cinnamon is hard and no one can peel it (method of distinction between real Ceylon & Cassia)

2) If you have fresh ginger, put small quantity by grating it. One can use Ginger powder for everyday usage. 

3) Add 1/4 tbsn of fennel seeds. fennel seeds also add soft and sweet taste. 

4) Add 2 clove buds or a pinch of clove powder. 

5) Add two Green cardamom pod for the smooth taste. I use Indian green cardamom due to its flavor. Most of the cardamom sold in grocery store is from Guatemala. I prefer Indian cardamom for its taste. Indian cardamom is harvested once a year where as Guatemala cardamom is harvested atleast twice in a year.

Leave all the mixture in the tea pot. Keep the leaves & mixture in hot water for 2-3 minutes. You can see the opening of leaves in the. water. Tea is now ready for filtration. I add 1 tbsn of milk and sugar (as per the taste) in the cup along with tea mixture.It is essential to add only small amount of milk otherwise it looses the tea flavor.

Note: You can customize the Chai flavor by doing few trials of spice mixture. You can use powder spices if you don't have time.

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