Since winter is the season of spreading warmth, here are a family’s signature recipes for masala chai and pudina chai to help you make yourself a delicious cup of comfort.
‘Chai toh loge na?’ (You will take tea, right?)
This gentle question is the first thing you’d be most likely to hear when you visit any home in Shimla, the beautiful hill station I have come to call home in the last two years. In my time here, I’ve learnt that the question is mostly rhetorical, because the answer is always yes, no matter what season, or what time of the day it is.
This holds especially true for the family that I became part of after marriage — for them, chai is an all-day sidekick with endless versatility. From fueling a busy morning to wrapping up an evening of festivities, everyone here is always up for another cup of chai. Every family gathering, I watch in amazement as my in-laws consume tea in gallons, cup after cup, even wondering if I should suggest some sort of a chai de-addiction project.
Needless to say, my outlook towards tea could be best described as middling… until one memorable winter day when I was handed a steaming cup of special masala chai made by the family’s resident tea master, Nani-in-law.
As the hot, spice-infused concoction made its way down my throat, I realised that this tea-induced nirvana was something truly special. Paired with some crunchy namak-ajwain biscuits, this heavenly brew is now the glue that binds my day together.
And since winter is the season of spreading warmth, here are Nani-in-law’s signature recipes for both masala chai and pudina chai to help you make yourself a delicious cup of comfort. After all, as someone said, “Life is like a cup of tea. It’s all in how you make it.”
½ cup Laung (Cloves)
½ cup Elaichi (Green Cardamom)
½ cup Kali Mirch (Black Peppercorns)
2 tbsp Saunf (Fennel Seeds)
2 pieces of 6-inch Dalchini (Cinnamon)
4 tbsp Ginger powder
2 Nutmeg (grated)
Roast all the spices for a minute on a hot skillet and let them cool. Except for the nutmeg, grind all of the other ingredients in a mixer to make a coarse powder. Add the grated nutmeg to this blend, mix well and store in an airtight jar for up to a month. For one cup of masala chai, use just ¼ tsp of this spice mix. For a splash of punchy freshness and medicinal benefits, add some grated ginger and tulsi leaves while brewing.
Tip: Sprinkling a pinch of this chai masala into your cake/cookie batter will give the most heavenly aroma to your bakes.
1 bunch of Pudina (Mint leaves)
2 tbsp of Jeera (Cumin Seeds)
1 tbsp of Kali Mirch (Black pepper)
Wash the pudina leaves well after discarding the stems. Drain out as much water as possible and spread them out on a large newspaper. For 4-5 days, keep them under the sun for 6-8 hours until the leaves dry up completely and turn crumbly. Roast jeera and kali mirch lightly in a pan and let them cool. Then grind them with the dried pudina leaves to make a powder you can store in an airtight container for six months.
For one cup of pudina chai, use just a pinch of this spice mix in milk-free tea that’s been simmered to the right shade of amber. Remember to add an invigorating dash of lemon and black salt, but only after you have turned off the gas.
Tip: This flavour-packed masala also makes a great garnish for raita, dahi vada and grilled finger food.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)