In the shop, the tea maker boiled water in a big copper pot. He put in masala spices— his nails were stained brown with them, which I assumed were the spice crumbs— and powder milk from a stainless box with a lot of sugar. I did not know at the moment but when the British Empire colonized India, high quality tea leaves were all exported to Europe. Therefore, there was only cheap tea available in India. The locals could not enjoy their simple tea flavor, so they added masala and sugar to help their recipes every two hours or so.
My new passion is making masala tea. So far I tried with my own tea flavors— English breakfast, Assam, Earl Gray— and I enjoyed them all. I like to use reasonable tea bags on sale at a supermarket following an Indian tradition. Even I can enjoy making it at my work office— I heat a cup of water until it boils in the microwave, and I add spice (any favorite spices like in the masala package, or cinnamon) with milk and sugar. I am obsessed with asking, “Would you like to try masala chai?”