A Good Black Tea for Brewing One's Own Masala Chai
I was wondering if anyone uses a specific black tea from a particular region/country? Many of the instructions I find just say “black tea.”
Usually/traditionally a strong Assam region tea is used, but it’s fun to experiment different black teas. I usually use Assam, but I like making chai with Fujian black too :)
My go-to base tea is a Vanilla Assam, but you can use pretty much any. Pick a black tea you like and see how it works :) I find that heftier black teas often work better (Assam, breakfast blends, CTC-style), but it depends on your spice blend and ratio of spice to tea too. Anything you might put milk and sugar in normally is probably a good bet!
My favourite base is an assam with tones of chocolate and biscuit, partly because I have a preference for a chai which is more ginger and cardamon heavy than other spices and I really like that mix. I usually use a ctc that I get at a South Asian grocery store. At the one I go to they have a private label assam, a Kenyan CTC, and several Brands from India and Pakistan as well as those that are from the States but are blended for the Indian expat community all of them make a decent base for chai. I think an assam with more malt/fruit/wine flavours might go well with a masala mix that has more cloves and anise. If you don’t take your tea with milk I have also used a cheap darjeeling with almond notes to make a decent chai as well as long as I am not adding the tea to boiling water otherwise it becomes bitter and astringent.
I don’t know what area you live in or how many international shops they have, but I was at a halal grocer last week and they had a significant variety of loose tea in cellophane bags and boxes labeled Assam or Mamri Assam, which is a traditional base. If you can’t find it at an indian/middle eastern/halal grocer, you can also order it online.
I made some with some assam from adagio that ended up pretty good.
I use Numi Breakfast blend, it has Assam among other blacks, all listed by name (not all breakfast blends do, from what I have noticed).
Thanks for your help, everyone! It’s interesting to see the variety. Looks like I’ll have to experiment. Now where to start…
I tend to prefer Assam teas, they are bold enough to still shine even when adding spices/milk
This isn’t for regular chai by any means but when a friend had some caffeine issues he would have me make him “decaf tai chi” (chai tea) with Harney’s Vanilla Comoro as the base. It added a bit of sweetness to the mix but you can’t steep it for more than 3 or maybe 4 minutes or it goes bitter so it is fussy.