Chai in Australia is such a very different thing. It's not bad, it's just not chai. I am slowly coming to realise that chai means something quite different in this country than in it's homeland.
Traditionally soy, syrups, honey and vanilla would never enter a chai wallah's mind. Every chai wallah, and indeed every housewife, has their own distinct blend, but none I've tasted in cafes around Melbourne are even remotely similar to their namesake, and here's why. Chai is tea, it shouldn't be made from a powder or syrup. And secondly tea should be brewed in water, it won't steep in milk, so if your drinking "chai" that is all milk it's gonna taste more like hot milk than tea.
Everyone will have a different masala (spice mix) according to preference, pocket, dosha and the seasons. As a general rule key spices are fresh ginger and ground cardamom, but you really can add anything you want, see below for suggestions for each dosha. Fennel is my absolute favourite. Below is my own blend, follow the method to infuse the flavours properly, but change the ingredients to suit you. Milk is more easily digested when prepared this way due to the heat and the spices.
(makes 2 cups, can be easily doubled or tripled or more)
- 6 pods of cardamom
- fresh ginger (how much depends on how strong the ginger is, less is more-don't blow your brains out)
- 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon on tea (buy the cheapest tea you can find at your local Indian grocery store, don't use single origin English Breakfast, chai should be made from the sweepings on the tea factory floor)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- a scant cup of milk
Bash up the spices a little in a mortar or pestle and combine with tea and about 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for just two or three minutes to steep the tea. Then add milk and bring to boil again. Watch it carefully or you'll end up with milk everywhere. Strain out the tea and spices and enjoy.
Add a pinch of jaggary to taste, these days in India they use castor sugar by the kilo, but I'm a stickler for health, and jaggary tastes much better too.
Vata: Any spices but not too much heat: avoid black pepper and ginger powder.
Pitta: cool or neutral spices like fennel, cardamom, vanilla.
Kapha: Any spices but especially hot spices like black pepper and cloves, ginger powder instead of fresh ginger, more water and less milk. Cardamom will aid digestion of milk, let cool and sweeten with honey instead of sugar.
*Since posting this a number of comments have appeared linking to commercial chai syrups etc. Needless to say I won't be publishing them! Chai is very easy to make with a little practice and the right ingredients-don't fall victim to marketing telling you it's hard.