Mint and Masala Chai

In the warmer months there is a nice little mint patch outside my front door.

That little gnome guy watches over it for me. He's my little guard gnome. Watch it, he's fierce. ;-)

The landscapers have strict orders to leave it alone and to not spray anything bad over it. Actually, our landscapers use only natural stuff anyway.

Sometimes I use it in a nice mixed greens salad. Other times I add a bit to brewed tea or even Indian style Masala Chai. Tea masala is a mixture of Indian spices which are "cooked" with a strong loose leaf Indian tea.

Masala spice usually consists of dried and ground ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, cardomon, and clove. I learned from some India colleagues that you can also add fresh mint to this concoction.

Clean the mint and take out the tea masala.

I do not have a photo of the loose tea, but any strong black Assam type tea will do. It is best to go to an Indian or Pakistani food market, but if there aren't any in your locale, you can always order online or hopefully find a gourmet black tea int he supermarket. You don't really want to use regular Lipton Orange Pekoe because it isn't strong enough. The type of strong Indian tea you need is Assam. I prefer a bag of CTC (cut tear curl) style Red Label which is by Brooke Bond and is sold in Indian markets. It is a very strong dark tea, perfect for masala chai. Another good Indian brand is Wagh Bakri, or even Lipton Yellow Label, which is NOT the regular American Lipton, but the international Lipton which is actually a different company, and is also sold in Indian markets.

I use a pot and bring the filtered water to a boil. Then I add the mint and the tea. It makes a nice dark brew. I boil them for about 10 minutes on low.

Then I add the milk. I use whole milk because I like it creamy but you can use low fat if you want. I'm not sure that skim would work too well, but you can try it. I bring it to a boil then quickly lower it and simmer it for about another 5 minutes. You basically want all the flavors to mix and blend. If you are okay with sugar you basically figure out how many cups worth you are making and put the right amount of sugar. The Indian people I know like it sweet but your taste may vary. This stuff needs a sweetener because that is how it is made. I choose to not cook it with the sweetener and add the amount on a per cup basis to my cup. (see below)

The milk gives it a nice dark reddish muddy clay color.

I strain some into a cup. I add a natural non caloric sweetener like Stevia or Xylitol to my cup.

Voila! Refreshing and tasty Masala Chai, American style!

Now, what, do you ask, does any of this have to do with nutrition? Tea is loaded with antioxidants, and the caffeine is (for most people) negated by the chemical theanine which can block the action of excitatory nerve transmitters, lowering our overall stress responses. Mint leaves are certainly healthy. The spices in the masala mix are also pretty healthy. Perhaps the black pepper may give some people a problem, and allergies notwithstanding it's a pretty healthy drink. Some might balk at the fat in milk or about whatever sweetener one chooses, but over a billion Indians can't be wrong!

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