My good friend Angel (the lady behind Todos Organics) and I ventured to the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden this past weekend for a lesson in chai and spice. Class was held in the Garden’s Tropical House which was the perfect location for learning about masala chai; many of the plants used in masala chai recipes are grown here.
Our instructor was Deepa Natarajan, ethnobotanist and lover of masala chai! She’s also got her own masala chai spice blend that is sold at the Oaktown Spice Shop. Basically, she is a masala chai celebrity. 😉
Deepa gave a us history lesson in tea, talked about each of the spices you might put in a masala chai, and showed us the different plants in the garden that produce masala chai ingredients.
Masala means “mixture of spices” and chai simply means “tea.” What makes a masala chai? Clove, star anise, cinnamon…
…cardamom, turmeric, black pepper, coriander…
And ginger! I got to help grate the ginger on a ginger grater, which I’ve decided I need in my life. This thing is amazing!
Here’s cardamom close up. We popped one in our mouths to taste them fresh. The tiny seeds inside pack a lot of flavor, almost minty. Apparently, cardamom was traditionally used as a mouth freshener.
After our lesson in spices, Deepa shared her masala chai recipe with us. We taste tested two versions: one with black tea, cow milk, and turbinado sugar; another with rooibos tea, almond milk, and honey.
Wouldn’t it be so nice to prepare and have tea time in a garden like this everyday? Me thinks yes!
We each got to take home a packet of Deepa’s masala chai mix. I can’t wait to try this recipe at home and also to formulate my favorite spice combinations! Are you team coffee or team tea? (Hint: you can be both!)