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homemade chai tea in a pot with indian spices

It’s been so chilly in the Pacific Northwest lately (by my pansy, poor-excuse-for-a-Canadian standards).  My hands are dry, my face is chapped, and I’ve been wearing my toque indoors all day.  Brr.  I think it’s because it’s been so damp.  It’s a different cold from the (actual) cold I grew up with in the Northeast.

We’ve been keeping our fireplace lit all day, and drinking more tea than is probably advisable. And when I say tea, I mean reeeeally good tea. Indian style. Chai, you might call it.

What is Chai Tea?

The weak tea that North Americans typically drink has the colour of dirty dishwater, almost no flavour, and no need for sugar (because it is so pale and spineless).  It is nothing close to the version drunk by millions of Indians.

Indian tea, also known as chai, is rich and milky, deeply coloured, steaming hot, and boldly flavourful with a definite need for sugar to offset the toasty bitterness.

The word chai just means tea. Chai = tea.

If you ask for chai tea in India, you’re asking for tea tea and your dorky adorableness will get laughed at a little bit.

Masala chai, on the other hand, is what you’re probably aiming for – it’s the spiced version. Masala = spices.

Despite what Starbucks would have you believe, real chai doesn’t start with a syrup and it’s not super heavily spiced.  If you visit India, you’ll see chai-wallas on every corner, calling out “chai! chai! chai!” and pouring steaming tea from a height (called “pulling” the chai), allowing it to cool a bit as it streams into little metal cups.

Whenever my husband’s parents visit, his mom makes me a steaming cup of her most delicious homemade Indian chai every morning. I start looking forward to it before I even go to bed at night. It is the tastiest tea you have ever tasted and I could drink a hundred cups a day.

Granted, she really likes my tea, too, so I have a theory that it just tastes better when someone else makes it for you, with love.

indian chai tea from scratch in a pot with whole cinnamon

How to Make Chai Tea at Home

A “recipe” is not really necessary; it’s really the method that matters.

You’ll need roughly one part milk to two parts water, lots of tea leaves or tea bags, strong infusion, plenty of sugar, and optional addition of sweet spices.

Here’s how to make Indian chai tea at home:

  1. Bring water, milk and chai spices to a simmer in a small saucepan on the stove.
  2. Reduce heat and add in black tea.
  3. Wait for tea to steep.
  4. Strain the warm spiced mixture into a mug; this will hold back the whole spices and tea leaves.
  5. Stir sugar into your chai and sweeten to taste.

Scale the measurements below to the number of servings you need.

Chai Tea Spices

If you love the flavour of North American coffee-shop chai, you can by tea masala at any Indian grocer, which is just a ground blend of sweet spices.

I personally find those mixes usually taste dusty and lacklustre; I prefer to infuse my chai with fresh spices instead.

Some of the most common spices (masala) used in Indian chai include:

  • cinnamon
  • ginger
  • cloves
  • cardamom
  • star anise
  • fennel

My personal favourites include fresh ginger root, whole cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks and fennel. You can use any or all of them to make your own flavour. I typically just toss in a few cardamom pods and fennel seeds. Warming and delicious.

What I love so much about it is that the tea is actually brewed in milk and water in a saucepan on the stove – so it stays piping hot until ready to be drunk, rather than cooling down as it steeps in a teapot.

For authenticity, it should be generously sweetened. I’ve seen recipes call for 1 tbsp sugar per cup. I don’t measure, but it should have the sweetness of hot cocoa. Just avert your eyes and keep on spooning. (It won’t have more sugar than a Starbucks anyway, you’ll just be aware instead of ignorant.)

Happy cozy-weather sipping! (And thanks, Amma, for all the tea and love!)

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Authentic Homemade Indian Chai

Prep Time 1 min
Cook Time 5 mins
Servings 1
Drinks
Indian

Ingredients
  

  • 8 oz water
  • 4 oz whole milk
  • granulated sugar to taste (about 2 heaped teaspoons per serving, traditionally)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of black tea empty out tea bags to make a tablespoon if you don't buy loose leaves

Add any (or all) of the following:

  • 4 cardamom pods smashed with side of a knife
  • small piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 " coin of fresh ginger
  • pinch of fennel seeds about 10 seeds

Instructions
 

  • Bring water and milk to a simmer with desired spices in a medium saucepan.  Reduce heat to lowest setting and add tea. Steep until tea takes on a deep, pinky-tan colour, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Strain into a cup and stir in sugar to taste.

 

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Michelle Hoffee
Michelle Hoffee
2 years ago

Hi Jennifer! I am a big chai tea fan, and after spending some time in India this past November I am having serious chai withdrawals! I had on a whim bought some masala chai in a foil in old Delhi spice shop more to support them then hope it would taste as well as the tea I was having everyday. To my surprise, it was exactly perfect chai! I went through the 200 grams in 10 days, pacing myself! The spice shop won’t ship so I’m having a hard time finding the actual black tea they used. This, a most ground Folger crystal looking loose black tea is the key part to making dark, rich chai.

Any thoughts where to get this loose tea here in the states?

Thank you for sharing your recipe and experiences.

Dhanyavaad!

Michelle

Michelle

Torie
Torie
2 years ago

A friend of mine just taught me this recipe and she gave me her loose leaf tea to start with. Exactly as you described…she gets Brooke Bond RED LABEL loose leaf black tea. It’s on Amazon…but it’s really expensive compared to local Indian Shops 🙂 Hope this helps 🙂

Na Na
Na Na
1 year ago

4 stars
I would suggest going to mountain rose herb site and checking out their firefly chai.

Camellia Sinensis
Camellia Sinensis
11 months ago

You want a “broken orange pekoe” Assam. Assam black tea comes from the Assam region of of Northeast India. It’s relatively low elevation to other tea growing regions produces a strong, malty, tea. Assam makes a full-bodied, deep amber cup perfect for drinking with milk and sugar.

Broken orange pekoe is a grade of tea, slightly below mid-grade. You don’t want too high of a grade as it’d be counterproductive (too delicate) and needlessly expensive, but you don’t want to use stale dust either.

If this is all too much info, look for an “Irish/Scottish Breakfast” tea, these are strong and hearty!

Moreno Ielmini
Moreno Ielmini
2 years ago

Hi Jennifer,
After I read your “indian chai recipe”, that I found very original, I completely agree with your writing.
Every things you said was right an your speach demonstrates that you love your Land.
I’m of course very fond of good masala chai???
Pls forgive my English, cause I’m not from English mother tongue (as you can easily see ??). I’m from Switzerland.
Bye,
Moreno

Moreno Ielmini
Moreno Ielmini
2 years ago

Hi Jennifer,
After I read your “indian chai recipe”, that I found very original, I completely agree with your writing.
Every things you said was right an your speach demonstrates that you love your Land.
I’m of course very fond of good masala chai???
Pls forgive my English, cause I’m not from English mother tongue (as you can easily see ??). I’m from Switzerland.
Bye,
Moreno

Michelle Hoffee
Michelle Hoffee
2 years ago

Hi Jennifer! I am a big chai tea fan, and after spending some time in India this past November I am having serious chai withdrawals! I had on a whim bought some masala chai in a foil in old Delhi spice shop more to support them then hope it would taste as well as the tea I was having everyday. To my surprise, it was exactly perfect chai! I went through the 200 grams in 10 days, pacing myself! The spice shop won’t ship so I’m having a hard time finding the actual black tea they used. This, a most ground Folger crystal looking loose black tea is the key part to making dark, rich chai.

Any thoughts where to get this loose tea here in the states?

Thank you for sharing your recipe and experiences.

Dhanyavaad!

Michelle

Michelle

Torie
Torie
2 years ago

A friend of mine just taught me this recipe and she gave me her loose leaf tea to start with. Exactly as you described…she gets Brooke Bond RED LABEL loose leaf black tea. It’s on Amazon…but it’s really expensive compared to local Indian Shops 🙂 Hope this helps 🙂

Moreno Ielmini
Moreno Ielmini
2 years ago

Hi Jennifer,
After I read your “indian chai recipe”, that I found very original, I completely agree with your writing.
Every things you said was right an your speach demonstrates that you love your Land.
I’m of course very fond of good masala chai???
Pls forgive my English, cause I’m not from English mother tongue (as you can easily see ??). I’m from Switzerland.
Bye,
Moreno

Michelle Hoffee
Michelle Hoffee
2 years ago

Hi Jennifer! I am a big chai tea fan, and after spending some time in India this past November I am having serious chai withdrawals! I had on a whim bought some masala chai in a foil in old Delhi spice shop more to support them then hope it would taste as well as the tea I was having everyday. To my surprise, it was exactly perfect chai! I went through the 200 grams in 10 days, pacing myself! The spice shop won’t ship so I’m having a hard time finding the actual black tea they used. This, a most ground Folger crystal looking loose black tea is the key part to making dark, rich chai.

Any thoughts where to get this loose tea here in the states?

Thank you for sharing your recipe and experiences.

Dhanyavaad!

Michelle

Michelle

Torie
Torie
2 years ago

A friend of mine just taught me this recipe and she gave me her loose leaf tea to start with. Exactly as you described…she gets Brooke Bond RED LABEL loose leaf black tea. It’s on Amazon…but it’s really expensive compared to local Indian Shops 🙂 Hope this helps 🙂

Moreno Ielmini
Moreno Ielmini
2 years ago

Hi Jennifer,
After I read your “indian chai recipe”, that I found very original, I completely agree with your writing.
Every things you said was right an your speach demonstrates that you love your Land.
I’m of course very fond of good masala chai???
Pls forgive my English, cause I’m not from English mother tongue (as you can easily see ??). I’m from Switzerland.
Bye,
Moreno

Michelle Hoffee
Michelle Hoffee
2 years ago

Hi Jennifer! I am a big chai tea fan, and after spending some time in India this past November I am having serious chai withdrawals! I had on a whim bought some masala chai in a foil in old Delhi spice shop more to support them then hope it would taste as well as the tea I was having everyday. To my surprise, it was exactly perfect chai! I went through the 200 grams in 10 days, pacing myself! The spice shop won’t ship so I’m having a hard time finding the actual black tea they used. This, a most ground Folger crystal looking loose black tea is the key part to making dark, rich chai.

Any thoughts where to get this loose tea here in the states?

Thank you for sharing your recipe and experiences.

Dhanyavaad!

Michelle

Michelle

Kinnera
Kinnera
1 year ago

5 stars
Great chai recipe!!!! Just made it. I didn’t use the fennel seeds. Wasn’t aware that they did that.

Carly perez
Carly perez
1 year ago

5 stars
So delicious. Thank you.

Reina
Reina
1 year ago

I’ll have to give this recipe a try, it looks and sounds delicious. Also funny you say that about North American tea, cause Darjeeling tea perfectly fits that description, and it’s from India.

nicole (thespicetrain.com)
nicole (thespicetrain.com)
1 year ago

LOVE the photography, such beautiful light!!

Lisa McLean
Lisa McLean
1 year ago

Thanks so much! This is actually do-able. I just returned from my first trip to India. A guy would bring a cup of chai to my room every day at 9am and 11am. I’m hooked! I must have this every day! I’m so thankful for the measurements … I can’t do the “just add what you like” because I have no idea what I like yet. This is a great way to start. Our chai was always so HOT … it must be because they had it simmering on the stove downstairs. My husband’s in town buying the cardamom and ginger. Can’t wait!

Dianne
Dianne
1 year ago

I really enjoy Chai tea, but don’t like the flavored brands. This authentic recipe is simply amazing!!! Thanks so much for sharing it. As I don’t enjoy sugar in my tea I modified it to reflect that and just take the bitterness out of the black tea. This is by far the best cup of tea I have ever drunk. . . (i’m canadian Eh!)

Gabriela
Gabriela
1 year ago

Lol this article is awesome! I went to India a few years ago and remember how SWEET chai was. I actually drink yerba mate tea so it’s very differently prepared, and no, I never buy chai at Starbucks. If I can get my hands on some loose chai I’ll give it a go using this article. This a great take on what chai means. Cheers!

Joesph
Joesph
1 year ago

Can I ask why the recipe starts with a story? Cause like a lot of online recipes do this, I don’t get it. Like people google a specific recipe and have to scroll down before they find the content they are looking for. I’m thankful here it’s relatively short here, but I honestly wish it wasn’t there. Don’t take this as an attack on you, but I honestly don’t care about all the fluff when I want to know a recipe, and I’m sure other people feel that way too. I hope you can take this as a criticism that can help your writing in future.

Not to say you have to be completely bland and matter of fact if you are looking to be creative, I think a tidbit or 2, some extra options when making the food, depending on the persons tastes, or anything else that doesn’t detract from the main recipe or point, can make it livelier and make it so the reader gets to know the chef and writer as well. For example binging with babish, a popular YouTube chef with a how to cook channel, entertains people with witty commentary while getting right to the recipe as well.

That being said, I appreciate that you have given me the means to try this wonderful tea at home. Thanks

Evelyn Letourneau
Evelyn Letourneau
1 year ago
Reply to  Joesph

5 stars
Wow, your dislike of the really nice story is as long as the story. That’s pretty funny.

emily
emily
10 months ago
Reply to  Joesph

5 stars
I would say just scroll down then. . .

kristinajacobsen
kristinajacobsen
7 months ago
Reply to  Joesph

5 stars
joseph: i think the story was offered because food doesn’t exist in a vaccum: it has a cultural context! knowing that, and being aware of that, while we are cooking it, can be really meaningful to those of us looking to connect with other worlds and other people in and through our cooking! so, that’s why the story was included 🙂

Yuhzimi
Yuhzimi
7 months ago
Reply to  Joesph

She’s a blogger. Bloggers…blog. That’s just the genre. If you’re looking for more of a cookbook type presentation, you may want to consider a site like Allrecipes.com (excellent resource). However, if you visit a food blog then, by definition, you’re going to get a story.

That being said, I’m looking forward to trying this chai. I hadn’t thought about putting cardamom and fennel seeds in.

Peace and Love,
Yuhzimi

Molly
Molly
6 months ago
Reply to  Joesph

5 stars
Hi Joseph, you just have to look at the top of every post on most food blogs, it says “Jump to recipe” and you can click that and zoom straight to the recipe. It took me awhile to figure that out too, even though I often love reading the posts!
Just made this chai recipe today and it’s delicious!!

Michelle
Michelle
6 months ago
Reply to  Joesph

Hi Joseph, I know exactly what you mean. I’ve since gotten use to it, but it used to do my head in so to speak.
M understanding is that a lot of this started as a way to protect the ‘Chef/cook’ legally. As you can’t post a common recipe without ‘making it yours’. In the case of a recipe like this, that would be used over an over again by all sorts of cooks/chefs, the way you make it your own is to post a back story. As well as changing something, even just one thing. Which can even be the method.
Enjoy your future scrolling 🙂

Karen
Karen
10 months ago

Will somebody please tell me what a “1/4″ coin of ginger” is? I am guessing it is a cut of the root 1/4″ thick, but how large a piece?

Paula Smith
Paula Smith
8 months ago

5 stars
While I do love Chia tea and that is obvious since I was looking up how to make it. Pale American tea? Being from South Mississippi, I make strong sweet tea. That we have over ice and so it is a year round thing. I can only tolerate hot teas on the chilly days since heat and humidity are common place.

kristina jacobsen
kristina jacobsen
7 months ago

5 stars
what a delicious recipe! we are in abu dhabi and wanted to learn how to make a delicious, full-flavoured version of this drink, and that is what we got (we even added a little condense milk at the end, to make it more like karak)! also loved the broader cultural context and the story offered!

Carolina
Carolina
7 months ago

5 stars
I never write reviews, but after making this I just had to. The flavor was amazing and I will never go back to the store bought stuff!!! As recommended, I only used fresh spices instead of the Masala mix, and added anise seed in addition to the others… It turned out so good!!! My only recommendation for plant based folk is to adjust the water/milk ratio to 50/50, since plant milks are much more water.
Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe

Sandra Thibault
Sandra Thibault
7 months ago

5 stars
I make enough for about 8 smallish servings in a dutch oven. Strain and store in a large pitcher in the fridge. It will last me 1-2 days before I have to make more. I like tea very much, but after drinking homemade chai regular black tea pales in comparison. I buy black tea from The English Tea Store, or Tevana has teas also.

Pearl
Pearl
7 months ago

5 stars
Delicious tastes like the real deal and without the black tea it’s just as tasty either way if you want caffeine free

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