I remember everything about my first cuppa masala chai. It was a Saturday morning in Goa, India. I had driven through palm-tree-lined red-dirt roads dodging the odd sacred cow plonked in the middle of the road. Skinny wild dogs lounging idly in the already scorching morning sun and incense hung in the still air.
Car and bus horns beeped incessantly. Yet this cacophony faded into silence after the first mouthful of this sweet strong silky nectar from the deities above. Hardly a day in the past thirteen years has gone by without me having a cup or pot of masala chai. It’s official I am a chai-junkie.
MASALA CHAI – my little cup of india
Makes 1 litre. Takes 10 minutes
1 litre full-fat milk (moo juice/soya/almond)
1 cup filtered water
10 cardamom pods, crushed pods & seeds
5 black peppercorns, freshly smashed
1 large cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 star anise
1 tsp vanilla extract / 1 vanilla pod scraped & pod
2 inches freshly smashed ginger root
Handful good quality organic loose black tea leaves (Darjeeling is my fav)
Sweetener to taste raw honey/unrefined raw cane sugar
Add all ingredients in a pot except sweetener. Bring to the boil stirring regularly so as not to burn the milk. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for a minute. Repeat this process twice more. Cover the pot and leave to further infuse for a couple of minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer. Pour into a pre-warmed teapot. Add sweetener of your liking and stir. When pouring lift the teapot as far away from the cup as you dare so as to aerate the tea, creating a foamy top whilst improving the flavour. Sigh, savour, and smile.
Give me an OMMMMMM.. You can always tweak the spice level by adding more ginger.
Tara-Lee’s Top Tip
Make it a Turmeric Masala Chai by adding an inch of smashed and roughly chopped fresh turmeric root which you can now buy in literally all Irish supermarkets.
📸 Tara-Lee Byrne