Masala Chai

Tea is our ingredient of the season this winter. We’re using that as an excuse to sit down more often and relax over a cuppa’. Also, if you find my talk of spices interesting, you may like this post where I use a karha mix to spice up our pumpkin popsicles.

I was stumbling over my computer keys this afternoon while starting this post because I keep wanting to just write chai, but I know that’s not correct, so let’s get some vocabulary out of the way and then get on with this post.

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Chai is the word for tea in India. Masala means spiced or spice mix. So technically, when we Americans are drinking a “chai”, we’re really drinking a masala chai, a spiced black tea, not just a tea. Somewhere along the way we shorted masala chai to chai, and so I’ll stick with that abbreviation throughout this post, even though I’m focusing here on the masala. Or is it the karha?…

There’s nothing I like more than a warm cup of chai in my hands on a chilly winter afternoon. In the past I’ve always purchased either the concentrated liquid chai from the grocery store or tea shop’s chai blend for brewing. Today I want to share a beautifully simple and delicious chai recipe that you can use as the base for personalizing your cup of tea.

Traditional Karha

Another new word: karha. It’s the name for the spice blend used for making the masala chai. Traditionally, the karha begins with a combination of warming spices. This is commonly cardamom with some ginger, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, or nutmeg; all spices that we are familiar with when baking. In addition to those spices, some karha may include black pepper, fennel seeds, or coriander. You can also add spices like tumeric for their medicinal value. And those lists are not exhaustive, if there’s a spice you like, it’s fair game!

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the spice mixture. In India, the karha varies by region and even by the time of year. And likewise, outside of India, different regions of the world add different spices to their tea depending upon a region’s access to different spices and its palette.

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Tasting Teas : Pu’er Tea with Dried Orange Peel

Tea is our ingredient of the season this winter. We’re using that as an excuse to do a lot of tasting and to share our finds with you. Also, if you like orange-y things,  it was our ingredient of the season last winter!

When Sarah was in town last week, we made it a point to visit Boulder’s Ku Cha House of Tea. We’re excited to tell you more about the shop and its tea house in another post, today I wanted to share some photos and details about the Pu’er tea in a dried tangerine that we took home for our afternoon tea.

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To make this specialty a fermented tea is stuffed into the whole rind or mandarins or tangerines. The stuffed fruit is then left to dry, allowing the tea to absorbs the light citrus aroma. The tea leaves can be brewed alone or with broken pieces of the dried tangerine peel, thereby amplifying the citrus flavor.

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Ingredient of the Season : Tea

Every season we like to pick one ingredient and find a variety of ways to love it and use it. You can find our complete ingredient archive here.

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When Sarah and I were thinking about the long, dark, and cozy winter still ahead, we decided that tea would be the perfect ingredient to carry us through to spring. We’ve always been big tea fans, granted our tea selection can get a bit boring (Sarah has her favorite and I have mine), but we’re hoping that during our “winter of tea” we will learn more about teas, sample new varieties, and even discover new ways to incorporate tea into our lives through baking, cosmetics, and crafts. We’re also excited to use this selection as an excuse to spend more time in our local tea shops, maybe pop into Celestial Seasonings’ factory for another tour, and visit at least one tea house for a ceremony.

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Lemongrass Mint Iced Tea

Mint is our ingredient of the season. We’ve used it in a variety of drinks, both alcoholic to non-alcoholic, salads, and body scrubs.

Today we’re sharing an amazingly simple and delicious herbal iced tea that’s the perfect addition to any summer spread. This pairing of lemongrass and mint is something I’ve carried around with me for years, only getting the urge to mix up a batch on the hottest of summer days, just like the first time I had it.

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