I love masala chai! I've been making my own masala mix for a few years now and my favorite thing to do is make a cold-brew concentrate out of it.
Basically, I mx up enough of my special blend of masala spices with enough distilled water to make roughly 1/2 to 2/3 gallon or so of concentrate, which when strained ends up being enough to make somewhere around thirty-five 1-cup servings or so of chai. I add 1/4 cup of the concentrate to 3/4 cup of milk (either hot or cold) along with some honey to sweeten and maybe some vanilla, too if I'm in the mood. It's also great to add to hot chocolate.
For what its worth, here's my recipe for the concentrate. It's based purely on my taste buds' memory of the masala chai from my favorite Indian restaurant (makes about 1/2 gallon strained concentrate):
- 57g weight whole green cardamom pods
- 5g weight whole cloves
- 6.5g weight whole peppercorns
- 19g weight whole fennel seeds
- 18.4g weight ground cinnamon (I use Penzy’s Vietnamese cinnamon)
- 20g weight ground ginger (I use Penzey’s China powdered ginger #1)
- 288g weight loose tea leaves ( I've used either English breakfast tea or Lipton orange pekoe/black, or Assam, or Darjeeling. They've all been good choices for me)
- 2967g weight spring water
I buy all my spices either at Penzy's or my local Asian market.
- In a coffee grinder or mortar & pestle, grind/break up all of the whole spices. Don’t grind until finely powdered or anything that severe, but just grind until they are broken up/bruised fairly well so that their flavors can be released. Add them to a bowl along with the ground cinnamon and ground ginger and stir to mix. If you so desire, you may make the mixture up ahead and store in a tightly-covered jar until needed.
-In a gallon-sized Mason jar (or other gallon-sized glass container with wide mouth), place the tea leaves, the ground spices and the water, making sure all is sufficiently soaked/wet. Cover the container, then place it in the refrigerator to steep for at least
24 hours or even longer. I’ve gone as long as 48 hours before and it came out great. Give the jar a shake every now and then when you think of it.
-When done steeping, it’s time to strain. Here is my straining method:
1) I first strain all the large pieces/particles out by use of a clean, large paint-straining bag (Lowes sells them down the painting aisle). I pour everything out of the jar through the bag which is set into the largest bowl I own, making sure to squeeze as much liquid out into the bowl as possible.
- Second/final straining: Next, I let the big bowl of first-strained concentrate sit on the counter for a few minutes so that the more finely ground spices have time to sink to the bottom. In the meantime, I prepare my finer straining implements, which happen to be 3 (clean) muslin tea bags placed one inside the other which I have on hand from Wholefoods (or you can use 3 layers of tightly-woven muslin cloth) and a siphon/turkey baster. Working bit by bit and making sure not to disturb the fine spice particles resting on bottom of the bowl, I siphon off the concentrate with the baster and squirt it out into innermost of the tripled-up bags, and then I hold the top of the bags closed and gently squeeze the concentrate out into a clean, large bowl. The three layers of bags work brilliantly at straining out the finer particles of spices so that the concentrate comes out smooth and not gritty at all. Just be careful as you get closer to the bottom of the bowl to not suck up any of the spicy sludge laying there if you can help it. Gently tip the bowl to help you.
Or you can use a nut-milk bag for the second straining instead. I recently discovered how wonderful nut-milk bags are for easily straining out fine particles from my homemade nut milks. I haven't had a chance to use them on my masala chai concentrate yet, but you can be sure I will be doing so the next time I make it.
3) Once done, you can pour the concentrate back into the same gallon brewing container (wash it out well and dry first), or some other clean glass container, and store it tightly covered in the fridge. Will last several weeks. I’ve often gone as long as a month or more just fine before using it all up.
To use, just pour out 1/4 cup of concentrate and mix with 3/4 cup of hot milk or cold milk if you want it iced, sweeten to taste and enjoy. Other serving ideas- add some to your hot chocolate or coffee for a spicy kick, and/or add about 1/8 tsp. of rose water or orange blossom water for an exotic flavor boost, or a splash of vanilla extract or a few drops of coconut flavoring oil.