There are certain comfort foods from childhood that you just can't replace. For me, South Asian-style masala chai is one of them. Here, I'm sharing how to make authentic masala tea with one unique twist: the addition of saffron. I got the idea when I met with the founder of Heray Spice and we did a taste test with saffron from his family's farm in Afghanistan. I'd seen YouTube videos of saffron masala tea (or zafrani chai) from Pakistan and put it together with the way that I typically make masala chai. Here I use coconut sugar instead of white sugar because I like its caramel taste and it reminds me of the less processed sugar varieties (like jaggery) that you'll find in India and Pakistan. I have masala chai all the time with nondairy milk, and it's good, but it's almost a totally different beverage. So here I've given you the traditional whole milk preparation as well as suggestions for going dairy-free.
Zafrani Chai recipe
makes 2 small servings
1 cup water
1/2 cinnamon stick
5 cardamom pods
3 black peppercorns
pinch of saffron
2 black tea bags (or 4 teaspoons loose leaf black tea)
1 cup whole milk (see directions below to sub nondairy milk)
2-3 teaspoons coconut sugar
1. In a small pot heat water with cinnamon stick, cardamom, cloves, peppercorns and saffron. Let simmer on low for 10 minutes.
2. Add black tea and milk and let simmer on low an additional 10 minutes. Strain and serve in two small tea cups or glasses garnished with additional saffron threads.
Note: Typically masala chai is made with dairy milk that is simmered along with the spices and tea. However, when I've tried this method with nondairy alternatives, I find they tend to get a weird consistency and separate. If you want to make this dairy-free, simmer the spices, tea and sugar with water only and then add your non-dairy milk of choice and let it heat up but not boil. My favorite kind is actually soy milk (creamier) but you can also try almond or coconut milk.