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Spiced Milk Tea (Masala Chai)

['10 green cardamom pods, cracked, seeds removed, and pods discarded, or 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds or ground cardamom', '1 (1 1/2-inch) piece cinnamon stick', '4 peppercorns (preferably white)', '1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds', '2 cups whole milk', '3 1/2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar, or to taste', '1/2 teaspoon ground ginger', '2 cups water', '5 teaspoons loose orange pekoe tea or other black tea', 'Equipment: a mortar and pestle or an electric coffee/spice grinder']

Grind together cardamom, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, and fennel seeds with mortar and pestle or coffee/spice grinder.
Bring milk just to a simmer in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Stir or whisk in brown sugar, ground spice mixture, ginger, and 1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes to infuse flavors.
Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a 1-quart saucepan, add tea, and boil 1 minute.
Pour tea through a fine-mesh sieve into hot milk mixture (discard tea leaves) and cook over low heat 1 minute. Stir before serving.

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