This blog was written as a guest post for The Skinny on Low Cal site. You can access the original post here.
The biggest competition on Thanksgiving Day doesn’t happen on a football field for me. Instead it’s a battle between the spices taking over my kitchen. The heady bouquet of sage and thyme takes an early lead in the day, but the intoxicating aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg always wins when it’s over.
Now I’ve discovered a way to surround myself with that scent all year long by making Masala Chai!
“Chai” is Hindi word for tea and “masala” chai is simply spiced tea. Traditional recipes for this ancient Indian brew are made by a process called decoction. It involves gently simmering loose black tea, assorted whole spices and a sweetening agent in a mixture of milk and water, then straining it before serving.
Popular versions available today include pre-seasoned tea bags that can be steeped in hot water so you can add the milk and a sweetener of your choice. Chai can also be purchased as a dry instant mix or liquid concentrate to prepare as iced tea or a shake. And when you’re in your favorite coffee shop you can even find chai latte made with steamed milk.
If you’re ready to try making Masala Chia at home there are endless ways to create your own signature version. The type of tea and spices you use will deliver that inviting fragrance and zesty flavor (especially if using pepper and ginger), while your choice of sweetener and milk will enhance the flavor and control the calories.
TEA – loose or bagged: black, green, white, oolong or pu-erh tea from Camellia sinensis plant; flavored tea such as Earl Grey or jasmine; herbal infusion teas such as rooibos or chamomile
SPICES – whole or ground: allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, fennel, ginger (dried or fresh), peppercorns, star anise
MILK – whole, reduced-fat, low-fat or fat-free: fresh cow’s milk, powdered milk, canned evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk (replaces milk and sweetener), soymilk, almond milk
SWEETENERS – powdered, granulated or syrup: white or brown sugar, honey, molasses, date sugar, palm sugar, coconut sugar, agave syrup, no- and low-calorie sweeteners such as aspartame, stevia, sucralose
Serving Size- 2 cups
1 cup water
1 cup fat-free milk
2 teaspoons loose tea leaves or 1 tea bag
1-2 teaspoons spices: ¼ tsp. cinnamon + ¼ tsp. clove + ¼ tsp. nutmeg + 2 black peppercorns + 1 thin slice fresh ginger
1 packet low calorie sweetener, equal to 2 teaspoons sugar
1. Combine water, milk, spices and sweetener in a pot and heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until just below a boil. Be careful not to boil the milk.
2. Turn off heat, cover and let simmer 2 minutes.
3. Pour through strainer into individual tea cups or teapot to serve.
TIPS: Stainless steel or nonstick pots work best for even heating. Keep heat at medium-high so milk doesn’t burn. A combination of fresh and dried spices can be used. Strain immediately for best flavor. Refrigerate unused portion.
Registered dietitian and nutrition expert Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN has more than 30 years of experience counseling patients and teaching at the university level. She is also the author of two books on nutrition. Follow her on Twitter @EverydayRD