Chai Tea Recipes from the T Ching Archives

Chai Tea Recipes from the T Ching Archives

Chai Tea in the U.S.

Masala Chai is one of the traditional ways to drink tea in India where milk is boiled with a sweet spice mixture. The popularity of Chai Tea in the U.S. can be traced back to the 1990s and is often attributed to Devan Shah, founder of International Tea Importers and Chado Tea. While the tea industry has no official historian, few argue with the impact he had, wholesaling his uniaque blends to tearooms. Tea drinkers fll in love with the new trend.

Responding to the popularity of this Indian specialty, T Ching has published many different articles  over the years. This post re-publishes some of these recipes from three previously published articles by three different authors so that you can see how some small variations can make a big difference in your cup.

We hope that you will be inspired to create your own “perfect” chai recipe.

Masala Magic – Chai Tea Recipe

Originally Posted by  | Jan 28, 2009 

In India, tea blended with spices accompanies and supplements Ayurvedic treatment, the ancient Hindu health and medical science.  Drinking tea has also long been a purely recreational and social activity throughout India, and it is said the average Indian citizen drinks tea at least four times each day.  For tea drinkers anywhere, however, Masala Chai can be a delicious, warm start to any day, or a nurturing, relaxing break in any routine.  The sensuous aroma and comforting taste can become a daily ritual, or a treat reserved for more leisurely weekend times or special events.

“Masalas” are different spice blends used in Indian food preparation, with certain masalas concocted solely to enhance tea.  As the world’s largest tea producer and consumer, India has many recipe variations on traditional Indian milk teas, and Masala Chai is one of them.  Plain black tea usually forms the base, so the spices do not overwhelm the mixture, although other plain teas can be substituted.

Tea masalas are readily available in pre-mixed packages or tea bags found in markets, coffee specialty stores, or at numerous online sites.  One of India’s largest tea companies, Girnar, offers a variety of teas and masalas for sale to the international market.  But, Masala Chai is also easy to make fresh, and stainless steel tea pans with spouts can be found in Asian markets or Indian specialty stores, along with stainless steel cups or heavy glasses in which the brewed tea is often served.

The sensuous aroma, like that from simmering potpourri during holiday celebrations, creates a soothing olfactory treat for any occasion, and Masala Chai spice mixes make a distinctly Indian gift for tea aficionados.  Try this simple, traditional recipe.  Enjoy!

Ingredients (4 servings):
2 cups water
1 one-inch cube ginger
3 pods allspice
10 black peppercorns
4 whole cloves
5 pods green cardamom
2 sticks cinnamon
Dash ground nutmeg or 5 “scrapes” grated from whole nutmeg
1 to 1-1/2 Tablespoons black tea, preferably Indian
2 cups milk
2 Tablespoons sugar, or to taste

Method: Place the water in a saucepan.  Peel the ginger with the tip of a spoon and then grate it into the water.  Grind the spices together using a mortar and pestle, or use a spice or coffee grinder.  Add the spices to the water and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir in the tea and bring the mixture back to a boil. (For a stronger brew, let the mixture boil a minute or two longer.)  Stir in the milk and sugar and bring the mixture back to a boil.  Strain the mixture into a bowl to remove solids.  Pour the mixture back and forth from the bowl to a pan a few times to mix thoroughly.  Serve.

Quest For the Perfect Chai Tea Recipe

I am on a mission. I’m looking for the perfect chai. You all know what I’m talking about. Chai. Spiced black tea that’s spicy, but not too spicy, sweet, but not too sweet, and all-around delicious; a perfect treat that complements everything from a rainy winter morning and a good book to an Indian feast of chicken tikka masala and fresh naan. You know, chai.

Now, it’s one thing to go into an Indian restaurant and order a chai to go with dinner, but a whole different endeavor to make it at home. Most tea shops will offer some sort of house chai blend with most of the requisite ingredients, but I have yet to find one that matches up with the chai I describe above. I just don’t think that chai is something that you can steep for five minutes, add a splash of milk and honey to, and be on your merry way.

To make a successful chai, or masala chai as it were, you need several ingredients. The first is tea, preferably Indian in origin if you’re going for full authenticity, but any good black tea will do. Without tea, all you’re going to be making is spicy milk. If spicy milk is what you’re going for, however, please omit the tea by all means. There’s no judgment here. The second critical ingredient is milk. Traditional chai is predominantly made with milk. I like to make mine around 1/2-3/4 milk. Feel free to use whatever type of milk or lactose-free alternative you desire, but I prefer whole milk. The fat content of the milk you choose will largely influence the richness of your chai. Finally, we come to the spices. Spices put the “masala” in “masala chai.” Masala is Indian for “spice” and is therefore quite the important addition. The star players in chai are cardamom, black pepper, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon, each adding its own unique twist and flavor. The mixture of spices is as varied as there are chai drinkers. I’ve seen blends that include everything from anise seeds to mint and bay leaves. I encourage you to take my recipe, experiment with your own preferences, and report back. Like I said, I’m searching for the perfect chai and would love to hear your suggestions.

The perfect chai (makes 32 ounces)
Well balanced and just sweet enough, this delightfully spicy blend of ingredients lends itself perfectly to any occasion.

2 cups water
2 cups milk (plus a little more if the water boils down too much)
4 tsp black tea

Spice mixture (give the spice mixture a little grind with a mortar and pestle to increase the surface area and draw out some of the natural oils)

1 tsp dried ginger (not ground)
4 tsp sugar
16 peppercorns
8 whole cloves
8 green cardamom pods (split to reveal the seeds)
2 cinnamon sticks (about 3″)
1 star anise

1. In a medium sauce pan, bring water to a boil. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, remove it from the heat and add the tea leaves. Let it steep for three (3) to five (5) minutes.
2. Strain the tea leaves, add the spice mixture, and bring back to a boil.
3. Reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer for ten (10) minutes.
4. Add milk and sugar and bring the temperature back up to around 150 degrees F. to prevent scalding.
5. Strain into a pot, serve, and enjoy.

Variation: Sweet and extra spicy chai

Using less sugar and adding red pepper gives this chai an extra kick that’s sure to surprise and delight you and your guests.

2 cups water
2 cups milk (plus a little more if the water boils down too much)
4 tsp black tea

Spice mixture (give the spice mixture a little grind with a mortar and pestle to increase the surface area and draw out some of the natural oils)

1.5 tsp dried ginger (not ground)
2 tsp sugar
16 peppercorns
8 whole cloves
8 green cardamom pods (split to reveal the seeds)
1 cinnamon stick (3-inch)
1 small dried red chili
1 bay leaf

There you have it, the perfect chai (at least so far). I’m still experimenting and I hope to keep you updated with my findings and progress and would encourage you to do the same. I’d also like to encourage you to search out a local spice shop since many of these ingredients can be found much cheaper if you can get away from the brand names. For instance, my local shop – a great little Indian grocery store – sells whole cardamom pods for less than $3 an ounce. Compare that with over $7 an ounce from one of the leading brands. This not only encourages me to make chai more often and for more people, but also to experiment more, bringing me closer every day to the elusive perfect chai.

A Traditional Recipe for Masala Chai Tea

Masala Chai is a very popular tea from India that includes spices as well as herbs.  In some cases, Masala Chai is used as an ayurvedic medicine; however, this particular recipe should not be relied on for any curative qualities.  While the word “chai” seems to apply specifically to Indian tea, it is actually a generic term for this beverage.  Although it is similar, do not confuse it with a chai latte, which is a lot foamier.


12 black peppercorns
6 whole cardamom seeds
4 cloves (whole)
1/2 cup of milk
10 teaspoons of sugar
12 sticks of cinnamon
5 cups of water
6 teaspoons of loose-leaf tea

If you want to simplify the recipe and use fewer ingredients, just use cardamom seeds, cloves, milk, sugar, tea, and water.  For an alternate recipe, consider adding star anise and ginger.  If you like rooibos, there are also red tea variations of Masala Chai, which have a unique flavor.

To prepare this traditional Masala Chai recipe, start by boiling a mixture of milk and water.  Stir after adding the spices and sugar.  Then turn off the heat, put a cover on your pan, and let the spices sit for nine to ten minutes.  After you let the spices soak and add the loose-leaf tea, boil the water again.  For the next six minutes, let the combination simmer at a reduced heat.  Finally, strain and serve the tea.  If you want to add more milk and sugar, this is the time to do so.  You can also serve Masala Chai cold.  This tea is perfect if you have a taste for milky spiciness and the acridness of cloves.  The tea is much healthier than an Indian cigarette, or bidi, which is often considered more dangerous than a filtered cigarette.

About The Author

T Ching

The editorial team at T Ching covers announcements and events that we want to put forward to our tea-loving community. We like to add our own voice into developing the content library along with our brilliant and creative team of contributing writers.

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