October 26th, 2010
Masala Chai/ Rooibos Tea brewed with aromatic spices
I don’t drink tea. Or coffee. Never started it and somehow never feel the need to either. When I found myself in a tea boutique, in Srilanka, my eyes fell upon rooibos and I picked up a pack of rooibos red and green tea, more out of curiosity to try new ingredients than anything else.
And when I got back home and unpacked, the rooibos cartons got stacked on the last shelf of my stock cupboard and I promptly forgot about them. Months later, when I was pregnant I realized that rooibos was caffeine-free and decided to take a sip to beat some momentary prenatal blues.
And I got hooked. From then, until now it has become one of my most favourite beverages and you will find me sipping a cup of rooibos in the evenings every now and then. I like the naturally sweet taste, gorgeous deep red colour and pure flavours of rooibos and prefer not to add any sugar or milk to my daily cuppa. But, once in a way I like to indulge myself and make masala chai. After my wonderful break at my parents, on one evening in Bangalore at my in-laws, I found myself sipping some masala chai, relishing every sip, sitting on the green lawn overlooking the house and helping myself to a second cup from my mother-in-law’s beautiful silver tea set. The setting was perfect for taking pictures for this post and out came my beloved camera to record the moment.
Rooibos is gaining popularity as a health drink, the world over. Low in tannins, free from oxalic acid, naturally caffeine free and rich in phytochemicals, minerals and antioxidants, this delicious tea from South Africa is known to treat several ailments like allergies, skin diseases, insomnia and many other diseases. Since, it contains no caffeine it is safe for pregnant and nursing mothers and South Africans are even known to treat infant colic with this tea.
Since it is arguably similar to tea, this is very close to masala chai, the popular Indian drink. Indians are known to add ginger (adrak) and cardamom (elaichi) to their tea and masala chai which is a combination of many spices is an extremely popular Indian staple. There are many versions and variations to the spice mixture added to masala chai and one can easily find powders of several spice blends in stores here. But, I like to brew my tea using whole spices like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, pepper and cloves, since powdered spices tend to lose their essential oils over time. This is also a surefire way to beat a cold. It is amazing how these spices are bestowed with healing and uplifting properties and a drink like this can enliven your senses and make you forget all woes. Drinking and making this is therapeutic. The aromas of the spices wafting from the bubbling pot is nothing but enchanting. All I can say is make this, sit back, relax and take a sip and see all your troubles vanish!
Masala Chai/Rooibos tea brewed with aromatic spices recipe
Dont skimp on the sugar for this tea and have it as sweet as you can take it. The sugar balances and complements the heat of the spices. I like to brew rooibos for a long time since it gives out more colour and flavour this way. Unlike regular tea, rooibos can be reheated and it wont be biiter.
500 ml (2 cups) water
1 inch (3 cm) cinnamon stick
6 green cardamom pods
1/2 inch (1 tsp) chopped ginger
1 tbsp granulated sugar or to taste
3 tsp (3 tea bags) rooibos
155 ml milk (1/2 cup + 2 tbsp)
In a saucepan, pour in the water and add all the whole spices, the cinnamon, cardamom, clove, pepper and ginger and bring to a boil. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Add in the rooibos and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes. Put in the sugar and the milk and switch off the flame. Strain and serve immediately.