The chai teas from India are legendary, and the warm aroma of simmering spices will instantly transport you there. Like many great slow-foods, the perfect cup of chai can’t be reduced to an “instant” occurrence. The assembly of essential ingredients (spices, tea, milk and sweetener) just doesn’t lend itself to short-cuts if you want full flavor. The good news is- it’s easy! And doesn’t require a plane ticket.
The first tip for making really tasty chai is starting with whole spices and loose tea. These already have more flavor potential than the powders found in tea bags because when spices and tea are ground up, they lose flavor more quickly. Next, make sure to use boiling water, and a pot or pan that will allow the water to circulate freely around the spices and tea. The boiling water extracts the most flavor from the spices and tea, and the more freely it circulates- the more flavor you get. Using these starting points as a guide- just simmer, steep and strain and you’ll have a great brew. Read on for more particulars….
Classic Indian chai is made with black tea, strong spices, whole milk and LOTS of sweetener. The spices and tea are simmered on the stove top and then strained, and warm milk and sugar are added. This is a great brew, but not my idea of a perfect cup because of the excess of sweet. The reason for the loads of sweet is that when you boil tea it becomes bitter- and the sweetener tones that down. Many chai concentrates are excessively sweet for the same reason.
There are several ways around this but the easiest is to simply brew the spices and tea in stages. Begin by simmering your spices for 3-5 minutes in a small saucepan- this brings out all their glorious flavor- then add the tea and remove the pan from heat and simply allow the tea to steep an additional 3-4 minutes. Strain the brew and add warm milk and sweetener to taste. One convenience we like is to transfer the mixture to a French press pot for the final steeping because it makes the straining easy! How much spice and how much tea? Start with 1-2 teaspoons of spice per cup of water, and 1-2 teaspoons of tea for the second stage. If this sounds strong, remember- you’ll be adding milk as well.
The beauty of this DIY Chai is that you can customize it in so many ways to suit your taste. Traditional chai spices include cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, pepper and clove but don’t stop there. We’ve tried everything from star anise and fennel, to coriander and orange peel with great success. The spice possibilities are endless. We keep our bestsellers, Classic Chai and Roast Chai, on hand year round. You can also switch up the proportion of spices and tea to highlight one or the other.
When it comes to selecting a black tea to go into your chai, Assam is our hands-down favorite. The bold flavor stands up well to the spices and makes the perfect base. If you want to try an herbal to avoid caffeine, Rooibos is an excellent choice, too. It also provides a solid base and unlike black teas does not become bitter with longer steeping times, so you can simmer or steep without that bitter edge creeping in.
You’ll also find several varieties to choose from for the last two essential ingredients- milk and sweetener- and let your own preference be your guide. We make our World Spice Classic with whole milk and honey. Whether you like it spicy or sweet, taking the time to make chai fills the house with intoxicating aromas- it’s the quickest trip to India you’ll ever take. Enjoy.
It’s time to celebrate! World Spice at Home is hot off the presses and we are sharing one last sneak-peek with this incredible cake recipe. Enjoy!
Sometimes change is good—and in this case the flavor is what’s new. Fans have deemed this the best carrot cake they’ve ever had! Serving a favorite dessert that is known and loved, like carrot cake, with a new twist is the joy of exploring with spice. Kashmiri Garam Masala lends roasted spice flavors of pepper, cardamom, and clove to this classic preparation, and the coconut oil adds wonderful moisture and a velvety texture.
*(c)2014 By Amanda Bevill and Julie Kramis Hearne. All rights reserved. Excerpted from World Spice at Home: New Flavors for 75 Favorite Dishes by permission of Sasquatch Books.
Want to raise a few eyebrows at your next picnic or barbeque? Try our Chaat Masala Fruit Salad for a wholly unexpected treat. This traditional Indian street food combines pungent, piquant and savory spices with black salt, citrus and fresh fruit for a refreshing summer treat. The flavor combinations are simply outstanding. Try the party sized recipe below and mix it up with just about any seasonal fruits. We were wishing we had some watermelon….
It’s almost Buddha’s birthday! Buddha’s birthday is celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth month of the Chinese lunar calendar in nearly all east-Asian countries, and this year it falls on Friday May 17th in the Western calendar. Because it is customary to eat rice on Buddha’s birthday, we developed this heavily spiced vegetarian biryani to honor the Buddha and many of the exotic lands from which our spices come. Our Continental Curry is the perfect blend for this occasion, as it combines the best elements of several varieties of yellow curry. While we can’t promise a permanent Nirvana as a result of this dish, we guarantee at least a transient one!
This savory cornbread knocked our collective socks off at first bite. Our Kala Masala spice blend is a complex one, and that complexity of flavor transfers easily to the skillet cornbread. There’s a tiny bit of heat from some guajillo chiles in the blend that is balanced perfectly by a healthy dose of toasted coconut for sweetness. Try it with a fish, lentil or vegetable soup for maximum enjoyment!
World Spice is the most aromatic place in Seattle, in a good way. The fragrance is so intoxicating that it can sometimes overshadow the visual of all of the seeds, roots, powders and pods in their little jars, most of them in subtle and varying earthy color tones. In the center of the store, though, there sits a bright contrast to the natural richness of the spice color palette — it’s a pyramid of shiny Masala Dabbas, the traditional kitchen implement of India. The gleam of the stainless steel is impossible to ignore, and is the perfect palette for the spice-centric cook.
A masala dabba (mah-SAH-lah DAH-bah) is a container kept close at hand in Indian kitchens. They consist of an outer cannister, inner ramekins, an inner lid, an outer lid, and a small spoon. The containers are filled with the most often used spices in that particular kitchen; usually some combination of Turmeric, Cumin, Indian Coriander, Green Cardamom Pods, Cloves, Black Peppercorns, Red Chile Flakes, Indian Cayenne, Amchoor, Brown Mustard Seeds, Fennel Seeds, Fenugreek Seeds, or Nigella Seeds. Having a selection of spices close at hand enables cooks to create curries on the fly to complement specific ingredients, leaving pre-mixed curry powders to less experienced culinarians.
Antique dabbas are found in both copper and wood, though in recent times, stainless steel has become the most popular material for its sleek appearance and ease of care. The dabba we offer has seven inner stainless-steel cups, each with about a 1/2 cup capacity, though we recommend only filling them half-way, and replenishing from your air-tight spice storage often. The gift of a masala dabba traditionally marks a coming of age, given from mother to daughter- though they make excellent gifts for any cook or aspiring cook on your list.
The dabba fun doesn’t end with Indian cuisine, however… We use our masala dabbas for every kind of cuisine imaginable. For the barbeque enthusiast who loves to make their own rubs, a dabba filled with Sweet Smoked Paprika, Indian Cayenne, Yellow Mustard Seed, European Coriander, Granulated Garlic and Onion Powder is sure to please. For fans of south-of-the-border fare, Mexican Oregano, Cumin Seed, Ancho Chile Flakes, Chipotle Flakes, New Mexico Chili Powder, Mole Ole, and True Cinnamon Sticks will be just the ticket. Your imagination is the limit!