I spent the better part of August photographing an orphanage and traveling around Nepal. It was an amazing experience that profoundly impacted my life. While I was there, I survived on dal bhaat (rice and curried lentil soup eaten twice a day, every day) and tea. Pretty much every family home, restaurant, and tea shop serve these two things. So in this post, I’m going to talk about that wonderful Nepali tea called “masala tea”.
First, two little trivia tidbits for you:
- Masala literally indicates a spice blend. So you can buy a chicken masala, meat masala, garam masala, masala tea, and more. Obviously the variety of spices varies greatly depending on the type of masala you are talking about.
- Chai literally means “tea”. In Nepal, they refer to tea as “chyea” (pronounced chee-yuh). It doesn’t necessarily mean it is spiced, so this is where “masala” comes into play by spicing the tea.
Okay, enough trivia.
When I was in Nepal, I could walk into nearly any tea shop in the city or even in the very remote rural areas and ask for this tea. it costs of four components: tea leaves, milk+water, sweetener, & spices. There is no exact method to preparing this lovely drink but I’ll give you my method. 🙂
Above: this was one of the remote tea shops Nima & I stopped at while in Nepal. We drove for hours and this was a beautiful place to stop and recover from riding a motorcycle on Nepali roads. Yowza. My backside was sore. But anyway, back to tea.
For one cup of masala tea, I fill a mug with a mix of half milk, half water, then heat the liquid. Personally, I use a pan on the stove but you could use a microwave. While heating, I add the black tea and spices. Right now I am using a premixed loose black tea/spice blend from Nepal that I strain out just before drinking. But I have also used a tea bag plus spices (pumpkin pie spice works great, or you can use whole cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom, grated ginger, etc.) Basically, the best spices to use are whatever you have on hand! It’s not rocket science; if it’s a tasty spice that sounds like it would be good in pumpkin pie, I’d consider it suitable. Haha.
With the tea bag and spices, steep until the milk/water tea mixture is a lovely tan color. Remove the tea and spices, sweeten to taste, then drink. Yum. For sweetener, I typically use sugar or maple syrup but feel free to use whatever you prefer. Some days I forgo my coffee in favor of this; it has about a third of the caffeine as coffee and it’s a tasty hot drink in the mornings. Bonus: it will save you several dollars per cup to make this at home vs buying it at a coffee shop.