Masala, an energizing alchemy of warm spices – cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and black pepper, easily represents the cuisine of India, for its ubiquitous use in dishes from chai to curries. Today we are here to talk about Masala Chai, a creamy black tea infused with masala spices, sugar and milk. And please note, no saying Masala Chai Tea, because chai refers to tea, and that would be redundant!
And a second note, please do not confuse Masala with Marsala, the latter being a dessert wine from the eponymous city in Italty. (Hmmm, how about a Marsala Masala Curry? That would be cool, but back on track!)
Masala Chai has taken a prominent spot in café couture and can be found on the menus of global coffee chains Starbucks and Coffee Bean, as well as independent cafes. It is also commercially available in teabag forms. My experience with chai is sadly restricted to the latter, and I didn’t particularly have an affinity for it. Until I experienced my potent version of Marilyn Masala latte, I realized that teabagged Masala chai are insipidly bland.
Why Marilyn Masala? My version, with a coconut base may look creamy and anemic-colored but it certainly packed a potent punch; it was so peppery and spicy I thought of Marilyn Monroe’s red lips. Don’t ask about strange connections, but that’s how my brain operates.
The various spices of Masala include but are not limited to cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper and star anise. I encourage you to experiment with the proportions to suit your palate, and even health needs. For example, cardamom and cinnamon help to whet the appetite while ginger eases stomach woes and indigestion. According to Aruduvic medicine, cinnamon, cardamom and black pepper is used as a remedy for arthritis. I sweetened my healthful version naturally with dates and frozen bananas, which married beautifully with the spices. You can try maple syrup or coconut nectar too.
Masala, arabic for “a thing that is good and right,” certainly hits the right spot in the taste and health departments. As for my Marilyn Masala, don’t turn your head, it’ll bite back.
- 1 cup coconut water (from one small coconut)
- 2 tablespoons coconut flesh, butter or yogurt
- 6 tablespoons non-dairy milk
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
- ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 Medjool date, soaked and pitted
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom (I used green cardamom)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 banana, fresh or frozen, for extra creaminess
- Using a mortar and pestle, grind spices.
- In a high-speed blender, combine spices with the remaining ingredients, blend and enjoy immendiately.