Chai tastes are personal and the making of chai requires experimenting to discover the specific blend of spices that you like. Try chai at several Indian restaurants first to get a feel for your taste preferences, then try making chai from scratch--it's fun, fragrant, makes your kitchen smell great and is immensely satisfying. Once you try it, you'll want it again.
For maximum flavor Masala Chai should be fresh and very hot, slurped not sipped.
Freshness of spices is paramount for the best flavor. We frequently buy very small quantities of the spices that we like at the local health food store or an Asian-Indian grocery we go to. I would not recommend using any spice that is over three months old.
... the step of boiling the whole concoction until it foams up at least once is very important. Whole milk, or half & half, is also necessary to get that good film on top.
You must use black tea which has the strength to hold its own with the spices--green tea won't do. Also, interestingly, chai must be sweetened to bring out the flavor of the spices - chai is not very good unless it is sweetened. We use ordinary granulated sugar so no extra flavors are added.
By the way, skim milk works best in steamers if you want foam. If you don't want cappuccino foam, 2 percent or whole milk is better.
... sweetened canned condensed milk combines rich milk and sugar.
When you are feeling down and dull or cold and sick, a cup of strong Chai brewed with a small piece of Ginger, some pepper and some fresh mint leaves can give you an electric boost.
Chai is also somewhat medicinal. Our herbal books explain that ginger and cardamom aid natural digestion, cloves, pepper and cinnamon are warming, and we feel a sense of well being after drinking chai. Indian foods seldom bother my husband's delicate stomach.
To make your own chai masala grind all the ingredients in a spice grinder until fine. Remove into a glass bottle & store in cool, dark place. This blend stays fresh for about 6 months.
The best tasting tea is got by mixing the so called dust tea and leaf tea. Dust adds strength, while leaf gives a distinctive flavor to it. And remember tea should never be boiled, it should be brewed.
Various other spices/seasonings that I've found in chai recipes that can be used to make chai: licorice root, fennel seed, allspice berries, bay leaves, nutmeg, honey, brown sugar, maple syrup, orange peel, coriander, mint leaves, vanilla bean, lemon, and the list goes on...