By ANDREA SHORES
According to Patrick Shaw, there are as many paths to making masala chai as there are people who make it. And Shaw knows — he, along with his wife Jenny Kostecki-Shaw, traveled through northern India researching and drinking chai to write their new book “Chai Pilgrimage: A Soul-Nourishing Tea Adventure Through Northern India.”
Shaw promises making homemade masala chai, or what most in the United States refer to simply as chai, is easy. And all one needs is milk, tea, sugar, spices and a little guidance. Shaw guides the way with detailed recipes on the Chai Pilgrimage website.
For those who want to try some tried and true masala chai blends I found a couple good brands to start with at home.
The Chai Cart
While they carry a wide variety of flavors like Green Tea Chai and Mint Chai, the traditional Masala Chai is a blend of black Assam tea and spices. It is a very fragrant blend of whole tealeaves and spices, including pepper and fennel, and best with milk. Order it from The Chai Cart website.
Tipu’s Chai Now
While The Chai Cart sells masala chai as whole leaves and spices, Tipu’s grinds theirs into a powder, which I find makes a creamier, more comforting cup of chai. I went for The Simple Life, which is pure tea and spices without added sugar, because I prefer to control the amount of sugar in my drinks. But Tipu’s sells versions with sugar and even a latte version where only water is added. Tipu’s is available at Dean & Deluca in Leawood.
What I find, and Shaw agrees, is that experimenting and fine-tuning any recipe is key to enjoying masala chai. Shaw recommends starting simple and adding new spices each time to your liking. For instance, I like when the tea and spices are ground into a powder like Tipu’s, and adding a small amount of sugar is better than none. And while most recipes call for eight ounces of water to two ounces of milk, I prefer to make mine with equal parts water and milk.
It’s best to follow Shaw’s advice and “find the spices that suit your palate. Play with different recipes and have fun. With some practice, you can turn the simple act of preparing chai into an art.”
Raised by generations of cooks, farmers and green thumbs, Andrea Shores is an enthusiastic eater and curious cook. She loves sharing her passion for local food by telling farmers’ and food purveyors’ stories.