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Masala Chai

I became curious about spiced Indian teas when I first began experimenting with Indian cooking. This was years before the evolution of Oregon Chai which was mass marketed to the public beginning in the 1990s. I had never heard of Masala Chai and was intrigued with it’s complexity. 

 My first experiment with this concotion came from a recipe in one of Madhur Jaffrey’s first cookbooks in the mid 1980s. This paperback book, simply titled “Indian Cooking” was printed in 1982 to accompany the BBC series “Indian Cookery.”  Her tea recipe for Masala Chai is simple, including cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, milk, sugar & black tea. I substituted honey for the sugar & served it to my family as an after dinner treat on chilly nights one misty winter in Carmel.  

The weather warmed, spring brought flowers and warm weather & our tea drinking turned to various iced teas. The slightly sweet Masala Chai was forgotten for a time.  

When we moved to Portland, Oregon , the land of a zillion coffee houses, we found Chai tea everywhere. Most often it was the Oregon  Chai concentrate, a creation of native Oregonian, Heather Howitt. In 2000 this product had sales of about $30 million a year!  Wow....why didn’t I think of that?  Heather’s blend includes vanilla, cinnamon, tea and honey. It is a less spicy & much sweeter than the Indian tea I remember, tailoring it perfectly to the American palate.  

My taste in Masla Chai runs more to the spicy and less sweet. Though I have never found a commercial blend that is quite what I like, I have found many recipes and have created one blend that my family and I love. 


Find lots of  recipes and more Masala Chai information here:


Masla Chai a la Wikapedia:




1 1/2 cups water

1/4 tsp fennel seeds

sliver of fresh gingerroot

6 Black peppercorns

1” piece of cinnamon stick

8 whole cardamom pods

8 whole cloves

1-2 tsp honey or agave syrup

1 TBL black tea

1/2 cup milk

Optional: Add a tiny bit of orange zest added at the last minute.


Place the water in a sauce pan & add all spices. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add milk and bring back to a simmer. Sprinkle with the black tea and allow to steep for 2-5 minutes. Strain into two warmed tea cups & sweeten with honey or agave syrup. 


The strained mixture may be chilled and served over ice too!





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