Indian masala chai is a delicious and sweet beverage made with milk, black tea, and several spices. Here is an authentic chai recipe that you should definitely try!
Most coffee shops serve some type of chai, usually labeled as “Chai Latte” in the menu. Many of us have tried it, but it is still not quite the same as real Indian chai. The best way to learn the secrets of masala chai is to travel to India and learn from the locals. However, if you try this chai tea recipe here, I’m sure you will be surprised how nice and complex its spicy-sweet taste is!
History of Traditional Masala Chai
Tea plants have been growing wild in the Assam region of India for thousands of years. Earlier tea was used as herbal medicine by Indians, and the recreational consumption of tea became popular only in the 20th century through British influence. At first, tea was consumed in a British manner with only a little milk and sugar added to it.
Later Indians developed their own version by adding more milk and various spices to their tea. In India, the street vendors who make chai are called Chai Wallahs, and each one of them has their own unique way of making the chai. Masala chai means “mixed-spiced tea” and today it’s not popular only in India, but all over the world.
There are countless different variations of masala chai tea and selection of ingredients to use. Even when choosing what kind of black tea to use, there are hundreds of choices. This recipe here is my favorite version but I also make it a little bit different every time.
Milk and Sugar
I recommend using organic full-fat milk for making the chai. If you don’t want to use dairy, you can also use plant-based milk. My favorite from plant-based options is almond milk. For the sweetener, sugar is the traditional option. I often use organic raw honey instead of sugar.
For the spices, I recommend using organic high-quality ingredients as much as possible. The most important ingredients in addition to milk and black tea are fresh ginger, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon. The other ingredients are optional, but I prefer always adding some star anise.
To make things a bit easier, you can also use a ready-made blend of spices. I recommend that you choose an organic masala chai blend such as Rishi Masala Chai.
It includes black tea and all the spices you need for making an authentic and delicious chai tea. You can find it and many other chai blends in this article: Best Brands for Easy Homemade Chai
List of ingredients for 6 servings of Traditional Masala Chai:
- 3 cups (7 dl) of water
- 3 cups (7 dl) of whole milk (or almond, cashew, soy, oat or another plant-based milk)
- 5 tablespoons of Assam loose leaf black tea (or 3 to 4 tea bags)
- 1 inch (2,5 cm) piece of ginger, sliced
- 10 whole cloves
- 15 green cardamom pods
- 1 1/2 (about 2 inches) of cinnamon stick
- 5 – 10 teaspoons of brown sugar (or honey, or other sweeteners)
- 15 black peppercorns
- 5 star anises
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
Here is how to prepare the chai:
- Crack the cardamom pods, cloves, and peppercorns (if you are using them) and put them in a pot. Add thinly sliced ginger, cinnamon sticks, and black tea. If you are using star anise and fennel seeds, you can also add them now. Add the water.
- Bring to a low boil and cover. Let it steep for at least 10 minutes on low heat. It will be even better if you leave it on a very low heat for an hour or two. This allows a proper infusion of all the flavors.
- Add milk and sugar and stir it while heating until it’s simmering hot again. Let it simmer for a few minutes to allow the milk to bring out the oil from the spices.
- Pour into mugs or glasses through a strainer and enjoy!
Go ahead and try different variations of this chai recipe. For example, you can try adding different spices (such as white peppercorns, vanilla extract, or ground nutmeg), try different varieties of black tea, or use a different amount of spices.
In the Kashmiri region, chai is often brewed with green tea, so you can also give it a try. You could even double the amount of all spices and make the chai really strong. Or you can think what are your favorite spices and just add more of them.
If you want to make the preparation process faster you can crush the spices into smaller pieces. You can grind the cinnamon sticks and star anises, and also grind the ginger. In this case, you need to use a tighter strainer to catch all the pieces from going to your mug.
The Ratio of Milk and Water
You can also use a different ratio of milk and water depending on how rich and thick you like your chai. It’s even possible to use just a minimal amount of water for getting the flavor out of the spices and then after that just add a lot of milk. Or you can leave the water out completely, but then you have to be careful to not burn the milk, so you have to use low heat and stir it constantly.
There are also several chilled versions of chai. These are more common in the United States than in India. Sometimes if I make a big batch of hot chai tea and there is something left, I just pour it into a pitcher and refrigerate it. Then it can be enjoyed later in a glass with ice.
Here is a great video about chai tea that gives you an insight into the culture related to it:
Authentic Masala Chai
One nice thing about making chai is, that while brewing it in a pot, the aroma of spices will fill the air and make you anticipate the delicious drink soon to be enjoyed.
In India, it is common to sip chai throughout the day. It is consumed with food, or as a dessert with pastries or dried fruits. I usually drink chai as it is, or after a meal.
If you have never tried making authentic masala chai, I warmly recommend that you try this recipe. It is really a tasty and fulfilling drink that you can enjoy with your family and friends.
Experiment with different ingredients to find the perfect version for your liking!
If you feel like it’s too much hassle to get all the ingredients, I recommend that you check out my article about ready-made chai tea blends.
Please post a comment below and let me know what is your favorite version of chai. Or if you have any other comments or questions they are also welcome. If you tried this recipe, I would love to hear how you liked it.
You can also find many more delicious tea recipes on this site. Here are some of the most popular ones:
- Golden Milk Turmeric Tea Recipe
- Traditional Moroccan Mint Tea Recipe
- 5 Refreshing Iced Herbal Tea Recipes
Enjoy your tea!
Ps. If you liked this recipe, please share it so others can find it too. Thank you!
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