Chai is a generic word for “tea”, but masala chai is a blend of spices and doesn’t necessarily include tea leaves. The basic masala chai consists of black tea leaves, milk, sugar, and an unspecific blend of spices. Each household and region also has their own blend of chai, therefore recipes vary slightly and greatly. For instance, chai from Kashmir (northern-most India) is typically made with almonds and green tea leaves. However, most regions of India use black tea leaves and does not add any nuts to the chai blend. Chai originally was used as an herbal, medicinal concoction throughout India and it wasn’t until the 1800’s that tea leaves were mixed in with the chai blend. Each spice in the chai serves a specific, healing purpose. Ginger is universally known for it’s antiemetic (anti-nausea) properties as well as soothing for colds, flues, indigestion and arthritis. Cardamom is a digestive stimulant and expectorant (getting rid of phlegm or mucus). Cinnamon is a calming spice, almost like ginger.
In the last century or so, masala chai has become a recreational beverage and even a necessity. Masala chai is sold all over the streets of India by Chai Wallahs and has spread throughout the world. As masala chai has globalized, so have the flavors. More and more tea houses, cafes, restaurants, and households are moving away from instant chai mixes and focusing on a brewing it from scratch and even innovating with the flavors.
Even though, I really enjoy my traditional cup of masala chai, I like to tinker with the recipes. To embrace Autumn, I have come up with the perfect pumpkin masala chai! This chai pairs perfectly with a warm slice of pumpkin bread or fresh pumpkin pie. It is easy to make in a large batch to serve at holiday parties or even after your Thanksgiving meal. You can blend the spices, pumpkin, and pumpkin butter up to a day ahead and leave it in the fridge. Also, after straining the chai, you can transfer back into saucepan, cover and leave it aside. Just reheat on low heat when you are ready to serve. Leave out the black tea and the children can enjoy this hot beverage before their bedtime to help them sleep or in the place of hot cocoa.
Everyone has a favorite holiday drink, weather its the White Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks, Muled Apple Cider, or Egg Nog. The Pumpkin Chai is my new favorite. What is your favorite holiday drink?
Pumpkin Masala Chai
1/8 tsp of ground cinnamon
1/8 clove powder
2 peppercorns, crushed
1/4 tsp cardamom grounded
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 tbsp pumpkin
1 tbsp pumpkin butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup whole milk
5 strands of saffron, soaked in 1 tablespoon water for 30 minutes (optional)
2 tsp. Assam tea (optional)
1. In a bowl whisk spices (except saffron), pumpkin butter and pumpkin to combine both well. Transfer mixture to a medium saucepan and add 1/4 cup water. Simmer on medium heat for two minutes.
2. Add the milk and give the saucepan a swirl. Lower the heat to low or simmer, cover, and let simmer for 5 minutes. Periodically, check on the mixture and swirl the pan so the none of the ingredients get stuck to the bottom.
4. Add tea leaves and turn heat up on high. Remove from heat when chai reaches a boil.
5. Strain tea into a teacup, add saffron strands with its water, and enjoy warm!
**Since the pumpkin butter is already sweetened, I do not add additional sugar. ***All ingredients can be adjusted to suit your tastes buds. More tea leaves will increase the color, caffeine and strength of the chai.
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