In honor of the chai wallah

masala-chai2Call it the “Slumdog Effect” but after seeing Dev Patel’s chai wallah go for broke in the name of love last week, Michael and I decided that a cup of chai was in order. We walked directly to my neighborhood chai house, Mr. Spots, with a very serious craving.  If you don’t know Ballard, Mr. Spots makes an excellent chai: spicy and not at all sweet. You can get it by the cup or you can buy it pre-prepared for at home consumption. Now as tempting as it may be to tote home a gallon of high quality ready-made chai, this girl isn’t going there because chai is so simple and economical to make. From start to finish, the whole enterprise can be accomplished in under twenty minutes – this is perfect because if you’re not within walking distance of Mr. Spots, you can easily satisfy your own chai craving and make your own.  Feel free to customize the spice mix used in the base recipe below to suit your personal taste. I adapted this recipe from one I found on

Homemade Masala Chai
2-inch piece fresh ginger, cut into thin rounds
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
10 whole cloves
6 cardamom pods
6 cups cold water
6 bags of black tea
1/4 cup raw sugar
Place the first 5 ingredients in a plastic bag.  Using mallet or an empty wine bottle lightly crush or bruise spices.   Place crushed spices in medium saucepan. Add 6 cups water; bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover pan, and simmer gently 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add raw sugar and tea bags and steep 5 minutes. Strain chai into pitcher and store in refrigerator.  You can make this by the cup by adding your desired milk and reheating. I think a 3 parts chai to 1 part milk works well.  Remember to rinse and save your plastic bag for the next batch of chai you make!

Note: you can change up the spices and the amounts you use. If you like it sweeter than I do, feel free to double the sugar. Personally, since I like chai seriously spicy I increase the black peppercorns to 2 tablespoons and the ginger to 3 inches.  Other traditional spices used in Masala Chai include star anise and chili pepper, although someday soon I think I will go off road and try adding coriander or cumin.
— J’Nee

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