Saturday, June 18, 2011

Authentic Indian chai.

Ok, here we go. I hope you're ready for this, because it's one of my favorite things on earth, and you'll amaze yourself when you drink a cup. You'll think, "How could I have made this chai myself, because it's seriously awesome!" I swear, you'll think it right inside your head.

All you need is:

- whole milk
- water
- loose leaf black tea
- cardamom seeds
cinnamon / cinnamon sticks
- cloves
- sugar (I prefer raw/organic, but you can also use good old fashioned bleached sugar, or stevia, or splenda or honey, etc.)
- awesome mugs
- metal pot
- mesh strainer

optional additives:
- cloves (not everyone likes them, but I highly recommend them)
- anise seed
- vanilla extract
- nutmeg
- etc.

The trick to making your chai is learning how you like it. It's a super simple drink that's entirely customizable, so if you make it this way and want to change it up a bit, please leave me a comment letting me know how it went.

How you do it:

The preparation –

Gather ingredients. Make a small slit to extract cardamom seeds. Break up cloves. Measure out sugar and cinnamon, and other spices of your choosing. In this recipe I'm using black tea, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, anise and raw sugar. (Most of my ingredients are gifts from India!)

Step 1

Fill a pot with equal parts whole milk and water. The trick to making the right amount of chai is using your coffee mugs or chai cups as your liquid measure. (If you're using smaller traditional chai cups, be sure to anticipate how many cups you'll want to drink! You want to make enough for seconds.) I like making my chai a bit more creamy, so I aim for three parts milk to two parts water. Thus, I dump three coffee mugs of milk into the pot, followed by two mugs of cold water. And I use this amount when serving a party four guests, one mug a piece. Turn your stove on at a medium heat, but keep an eye on your milk. You don't want it to reach boiling.

Step 2

Drop in all the Indian spicy goodness you've prepped. Throw in every part of the spice. You want them to simmer for as long as possible, so it's a good idea to turn your heat down a bit lower once you've added your spices.

Step 3

Slowly heat the milk to nearly a boil, stirring often. I stir my milk the entire time to prevent my milk from burning on the bottom of the pan. You do not want the milk to ever boil, but it needs to get to the point where it's practically there. Just simmering, with the heat visibly rising off the surface. You'll smell a wonderful aroma of spices at this point. It's time to add your tea!

Add 1 - 2 tablespoons of tea per cup of chai. In this photo, I used roughly 7 - 9 scoops, because I started out with 4 - 5 cups of liquid. 

Stir and let steep. Watch the color of the tea begin to change until it's a warm light brown, or the color of a graham cracker. When my friend Charlene taught me, she said that you can add less tea and wait longer for it to steep, or speed up the process by dumping a ton of tea and watching it turn more quickly. Either way, patience and a careful eye help. Add your sugar at the very end, one tablespoon per cup/mug of liquid.

Step 4

Strain and pour! I like to use a large metal strainer and a pitcher, so I can transfer all the chai in something I can pour more easily. Plus, it's important to get all of the tea of your drink when it's done so it doesn't sit for too long and become bitter.

Add another teaspoon of sugar to each cup, if additional sweetness is preferred. After appropriately sugaring each guest's mug, pour the chai on top and stir. Top with cinnamon.

Step 5

You're ready for a chai party! Serve alongside ginger, cinnamon or chocolate cookies, or any other treat of your liking. Savory treats are great with chai too.

Tonight I enjoyed my chai with an insanely good West Indian channa wrap that I whipped up when I got home and let cook down while I was making my chai with Katie. Get the recipe here. It was super flavorful and super easy. I highly recommend it.

And that's it! Once you've done it a few times, you'll get the hang of it and feel confident in altering your recipe to your liking. Charlene says that sometimes she just heats the milk and adds a ton of anise seed as the milk warms. After it gets hot enough, she adds the tea and sugar like normal, but the result is a really sweet, black licorice version. Mmm. Tonight was the first time I added anise, in addition to my standard ingredients, and it was awesome.

Go at it! Enjoy your chai today.



  1. Haha, yay!!! And your mug . . .so perfect! Wow, am I proud of you. This was definitely worth that year in Boiling Springs, right? :) Love you girl. --Charlene

  2. I love that you are using penzeys Vietnamese cinnamon- it is the number 1 cinnamon according to America's test kitchen!! This looks tasty! Maybe I will try it soon :)

  3. This sounds and looks amazing! WOW! I'm hoping I'll have some time soon to make this delicious looking chai! Glad it turned out so well! XO
    Oh ps
    Cute mugs!