Consider this: every time you have tea at a different place, there is something different. At its core, what you end up drinking is tea, but the taste differs from city to city, house to house. In fact, even in the same street, no two tea vendors will serve tea that tastes the same. The ingredients are the same – tea leaves, water and milk. So what exactly causes the difference?
Here are some things to consider that may affect the taste, despite the basic ingredients remaining the same.
Herbs and Spices
Some people add herbs and spices to flavour the masala chai. Popular ingredients for this purpose include tulsi (holy basil), elaichi (cardamom), ginger, cinnamon, and clove. However, you can easily detect the presence of these ingredients as the flavour is usually very strong, even when a small quantity is added.
Quantity of milk
Depending on how your tastes run, you may find yourself enjoying tea with more milk or less. Some people prefer a very milky tea, as it is more filling. Further, more milk will make the tea viscous or thicker, in layman’s terms. On the other hand, less milk will give you more of the tea leaf flavour, with no interference from the milk’s low key presence.
Cutting chai is a popular version of the regular chai, widely enjoyed in India. This is a strong tea as there is a greater concentration of tea leaves in the brew. The idea here is that a stronger tea will act as a stronger stimulant.
Addition of milk
This is an interesting scenario to consider. There has long been a debate amongst tea experts about when to add milk to tea. British tea culture involves infusing tea in boiling water, and the addition of milk is not mandatory. On the other hand, the tea culture in India involves boiling milk with the tea infused water. The tastes vary significantly in both cases. In fact, with the British style, you get more freedom to experiment with how different quantities of milk can change the taste.
Tea leaves are boiled in water. It is always recommended that you use fresh drinking water for the purpose. This goes without saying but do ensure that the vendor who serves your tea is taking care of this aspect.
Type of tea leaf
The type of tea leaf you use severely affects the process of making tea. Black tea is fermented and fully oxidized, therefore you can make it with boiling hot water. But with green tea, you cannot use high temperatures, as the leaf is more delicate and needs comparatively less heat to infuse flavour.