Who doesn’t love a good chai? Masala chai is a rich, milky, spicy beverage made with black tea that originated in India thousands of years ago. It is one of the world’s oldest drinks, known for its warming, spice-filled flavors, and aroma. Folklore has it that the origins of masala chai tea date back thousands of years to an ancient royal court, with a history tied to a king who created it as a cleansing, Ayurvedic medicine.
Today is a staple in India and is enjoyed throughout South Asia and the diaspora. Chai is more than just a cup of tea–it is a symbol of hospitality, a family tradition, a comforting ritual. When traveling throughout India, pots filled with the warm, milky, spiced tea are found in abundance.
Ginger: Ginger provides the spice behind masala chai. It can be added in large chunks to the milk or grated directly into the milk while on the stove.
Cinnamon: A well-known spice worldwide, cinnamon adds the warm, comforting flavor in the chai tea. Cinnamon is native to India, coming most abundantly from Kerala where cinnamon trees grow in abundance. Cinnamon should be used in a whole stick or slightly crushed with a mortar and pestle.
Black Pepper: If you like an extra spicy tea, make sure to add lots of crushed black pepper along with the ginger!
Cardamom: Typically, green cardamom is used in chai tea and lends a bright floral flavor to the cup when used whole, and notes of menthol and citrus notes when ground. Slightly crushing the pods with a mortar and pestle will release a mix of these flavors and aromas, rounding out the chai.
Cloves: Cloves are a traditional herb used in Ayurveda medicine. They add a bite of spice and a savory aroma to masala chai. Cloves are hard to crush by hand but can be gently cracked and warmed to bring out their full flavor. We especially love adding cloves to our chai in the winter when Paris is cold and the rain seeps into our skin.
Star Anise: Star anise has a licorice flavor that people either love or hate. Added into chai tea it adds a complexity that helps to balance out the sweetness of the cinnamon and cardamom, with a touch of bitterness.
Methods for Creating the perfect cup:
Traditional masala chai recipes begin with whole spices, which can be handled in three different ways for creating the drink: left whole, crushed by hand in a mortar and pestle (link to our marble and wood one), or ground. We use a mortar and pestle for our masala chai, which allows for the spices to release their essential oils into the chai faster than using whole spices, and without leaving a grittiness at the end of your tea as with ground spices.
Le Tattva’s perfect Chai
Neha, our president and co-founder here at Le Tattva, has a favorite way to make this warming drink. Below she shares with us her family recipe that she drank growing up in Delhi, and a bit about what chai means to her. Reaching from our hands to your home, we invite you to share a cup of tea with us wherever you are. Enjoy!
Masala means a blend of spice in Hindi, and chai means tea. To me, Masala Chai is a cup full of warmth, my “me” time, and memories of my time with my family and friends. Growing up, it was a tradition in my house. The entire family would have chai first thing in the morning with breakfast before leaving for work and then again at the end of a working day to connect and talk about our day. At college and work, a cup of chai would be an opportunity to connect with friends and make new friends. It is much more than a cup of tea, and today masala chai is my morning meditation. This iconic Indian beverage has accompanied me through my most treasured friendships, conversations, and my most challenging and happiest days. –Neha
Neha’s go-to recipe for a cup of Masala Chai
Makes one cup of tea
Bring the water to a boil with the freshly grated ginger. Meanwhile, gently crush the whole spices with a mortar and pestle.( I like using crushed whole spices to give the tea more aroma.) Next, add the crushed spices to the boiling water along with loose tea leaves or tea bags. Allow the mixture to brew for about 3-5 minutes, then add the milk. Bring the mixture to another boil, and then simmer for another 3-5 minutes, depending on how strong you like your chai.
Remove from heat, pour the chai (through a sieve) into a cup, add sugar as per taste, and enjoy your hot cuppa masala chai!