So I have memories of some great masala chai I had in northern India a while back, and saw a few different cooking variations even out there. In the US, it's a lot harder to find something close to the best I had in India, esp. since most western coffeehouses use pre-mixed concentrates from a carton. Even when the spice mixture seems about right (from dried spices or liquid), something else is off. Assuming the spice ratios are fine, I was wondering what effect "pulling" the liquid is playing in all this, as well as the timing of when to add sugar.
I'm sure the high and sometimes repeated pouring of the tea back and forth after milk was added is frothing it up a bit as well as cooling it down. Are there other effects that this step may cause, or qualities missed if not done when making the chai?
And what about when to add sugar? I've seen chai wallahs add sugar in the middle of the brewing, and also at the end. Does the timing matter? E.g., do you think they are actually caramelizing the sugar if it's added early enough, or is there too much liquid in the pot to ever reach the caramelization stage? Or is it more likely that different stalls could be using different types of sugar, resulting in different flavors?