My very first whiff of the masala chai tea bags I bought yesterday at the Indian Bazaar in Albany was a good one – full of ginger and cardamom., two of my favorite spices. These new! teabags were from the Parivar Fantasy company, also labeled a Sapat product. I really am not sure of the brand, I am just giving you the label information. They come in a plastic jar with a green lid. The teabags are oblong, about a third full of spices and tea which are the "best" Assam tea, cardamom powder, cinnamon powder and clove powder, with natural Masala-Chai flavor. It is touted as “no-mess”, no straining, NO TEA LEAVES IN CUP. Well! There were a lot of bold comments and exclamation marks on the label.
Following the skimpy directions, I boiled up a cup of water, threw in the teabag, added the amount of milk I thought I would like and a teaspoon of sugar. And brought it up to a strong simmer for a few minutes. It was not quite right, so I added a bit more sugar. Umm-um good. It was flavorful, spicey, without being too strong and all around a nice cup for an unexpectedly chilly day, as it leaves both your mouth and tum nicely warmed. It is not the best chai I have had, as I like mine with a bit more punch, but it is still quite good. I am also not sure it saves that much time and effort. I did try it in the microwave, just for completeness, and there it is quite time saving, but you do have to be careful not to boil the milk all over, as I managed to do.
If you are of an experimental bent, as I seem to be, try making your own spice mix. They are easy to find on the internet. I always look for ones from Indian folks, as they would be more authentic. You will see that there are many different ones. I don't know if these are particularly regional or just the way "mother made it" Comfort food, which I think this probably is, can be fiercely debated, as part of the comfort is it brings back good memories of our childhood or some other time in our past, when a particular food made us feel good. Spices tend to warm us and at least for those of us in temperate climates, warm equals good.