Get to know the spices. Get to know your preferences. Make it how you like it because you are the brew master. Or should I say, The Brew Master.
Yes, you are the one in charge of the intricate flavorings, the way the spice sits on the tongue, and how much caffeine you pack into each cup.
I like to think that the drink I brew at home each week is inspired by those Chai Wallahs of long ago. Add together some spices, some milk, some sugar, and some tea. Boo-yah. Masala Chai.
In my opinion, it is imperative that I use a distinctly Indian tea leaf. I've tried all kinds of black tea and none pack the punch quite like Assam.
This leaf grown in the world's largest tea growing region, the state of Assam, is known for its body, briskness and malty flavor. All of which are characteristics that compliment the chai concentrate perfectly.
Let it be known that black tea will turn bitter if steeped for too long. Therefore, the tea leaves are added to the concentrate at the very end of the process, left to steep for a maximum of five minutes, and quickly filtered out with the rest of the spices.
Buying loose leaf Assam tea in bulk is not only cheaper than buying it in prepackaged tea bags, but it offers a distinctly different flavor.
The main difference between loose leaf teas and bagged teas is the size of the leaves. Whole tea leaves contain chemicals and essential oils that can evaporate when crushed into tiny pieces for the bags. When the tea leaves are left whole and are let loose in the hot water they will expand, swell and unfurl. An entirely different richness is garnered from this process.
Loose leaf tea is an essential component of the chai concentrate. It is so very worth it to find a grocer who stocks loose leaf Assam.
A completely different region in India, but all this talk about Assam and India makes me think of this really great movie I saw once.
Darjeeling Limited Soundtrack - Bombay Talkie