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Traditional Indian Chai Tea

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Experience the authentic taste of Indian Chai, lovingly crafted from a traditional family recipe. Enjoy the rich, creamy, and flavorful blend of spices, including whole cinnamon, for a delightful homemade masala chai.

Table of Contents  

What is chai tea?

The pale tea commonly consumed in North America pales in comparison to the vibrant Indian chai.

Indian chai, known as “chai” in Hindi, boasts a rich, milky texture, deep color, and bold flavor, complemented by a hint of sugar to balance its toasty bitterness.

Simply put, “chai” refers to tea. Tea = chai. So, asking for “chai tea” in India would essentially mean requesting “tea tea” and might garner a few chuckles.

What you likely want is “masala chai” – the spiced version. “Masala = spices“. In North America, when we think of chai, we’re usually referring to masala chai.

In India, you’ll find chai vendors on every street corner, enthusiastically calling out “chai! chai! chai!” They skillfully pour the hot tea from a height, a technique known as “pulling” the chai, allowing it to cool slightly before serving in small metal cups.

Ingredients Used to Make Chai Tea?

What I appreciate about it is that the tea is brewed in a mixture of milk and water on the stovetop. This keeps it hot until it’s ready to be enjoyed, unlike steeping in a teapot, which tends to cool it down.

Authentic chai tea ingredients:

  • Water
  • Milk (in a ratio of approximately one part milk to two parts water)
  • Generous amount of tea leaves or tea bags for a robust infusion
  • Ample sugar
  • Optional spices for added flavor

How to Make Chai Tea at Home?

The authentic homemade chai tea recipe isn’t overly spiced and doesn’t begin with a syrup, despite what Starbucks’ chai tea lattes would have you believe.  

It’s really more important to follow the approach than to follow a “recipe.”

Mastering the art of steeping strong tea without allowing it to become bitter through oversteeping is the single most essential factor in flavor.

Learn how to prepare a delicious cup of chai:

  • In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the water, milk, and spices; adding the spices early on allows them to infuse fully.
  • Turn down the heat and let the black tea steep.
  • Allow the tea to steep; avoid boiling it at this stage to prevent the release of too many tannins, which are bitter substances that dry out your mouth.
  • To retain the whole spices and tea leaves, strain the heated spice mixture into a cup.
  • Your chai will taste sweeter once you stir in some sugar.
  • Adjust the recipe amounts below to yield the desired number of servings.

Spices for Chai Tea

If you enjoy the taste of chai lattes from North American coffee shops, you can purchase tea masala at Indian grocer—a blend of ground sweet spices.

However, I find that these spice blends often taste dusty. I prefer to use fresh whole spices to infuse my chai.

Common spices (masala) used in Indian chai include:

  • sticks of cinnamon (or 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
  • fresh entire cloves of ginger
  • green cardamom pods, or a small amount of cardamom powder
  • Nutmeg
  • allspice
  • star anise 
  • fennel
  • black peppercorns

My preferred spice blend features fresh ginger root, whole cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, and occasionally fennel. You can customize the flavor by using any or all of these spices.

I usually add a few cardamom pods and fennel seeds for a warm and delightful taste.

If you don’t have whole spices, you can use ground ones. Begin with a small amount and adjust the quantity as needed, as the intensity may differ.

Which Tea Is Best for Home-Made Chai Tea?

I enjoy using loose-leaf black tea such as Assam or Darjeeling for its incredible flavor in spiced tea.

At home, I often use basic Foxy Tea Indian Chai Orange Pekoe, readily available at the grocery store. If you prefer to avoid caffeine, you can opt for decaf black tea or rooibos tea, although I find the flavor to be less robust in decaf options.

How to Sweeten Chai?

For authenticity, it should be sweetened generously.

While some recipes suggest 1 tablespoon of sugar per cup, I typically use around 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons in a coffee mug. It should have a sweetness akin to hot cocoa.

Simply close your eyes and keep adding sugar.

(After all, it won’t have more sugar than a Starbucks chai anyway; you’ll just be conscious of it instead of oblivious.)

To make chai sweeter, you can use:

  • Plain white sugar in granules
  • My favorite sugar is natural cane because it offers a rich flavor.
  • Honey or maple syrup (not my choice; those flavors are stronger and out of place)

What Kind of Milk Is Best for Chai?

You have several options to choose from:

  • Authenticity calls for plain whole cow’s milk.
  • In regions where fresh milk isn’t readily available, powdered whole milk is often used. I personally enjoy its flavor and the concentrated creamy richness it adds.
  • If you prefer non-dairy milk, feel free to use your favorite substitute, although I find that most almond, soy, or coconut milk alternatives don’t suit my taste.
  • The only milk substitute that I find enjoyable in both texture and flavor is Earth’s Own Barista Oat Milk.

Is Chai Tea a High-Caffeine Drink?

Certainly! Chai tea is indeed brewed with a robust infusion of black tea. However, coffee boasts nearly double the caffeine content found in tea.

Moreover, black tea includes L-theanine, an amino acid renowned for its calming effects. I personally supplement with L-theanine for stress management and improved sleep quality.

Thanks to this compound, the caffeine experience from chai tends to be a milder buzz compared to coffee.

It’s worth noting that the strength of your chai can be influenced by factors such as the number of tea bags used, steeping duration, and stirring frequency, all of which can contribute to higher caffeine levels.

Does Drinking Chai Have Health Benefits?

Curious about the health benefits of chai tea compared to coffee? Masala chai infused with spices like black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, and clove may offer notable advantages. Research indicates that these spices exhibit biological activity that can aid in disease prevention.

There’s substantial evidence suggesting that spices possess anti-inflammatory properties, and since chronic inflammation is associated with numerous illnesses, incorporating them into your diet could be beneficial.

Enjoy your chai, cozy up, and savor the warmth.

Authentic Homemade Indian Chai

A rich and fragrant concoction of black tea, milk, and a variety of spices is known as authentic homemade Indian tea, or masala chai. This is a classic Indian drink made with cardamom, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. It’s warm and comfortable, calming and energizing all at once. Indian Chai is a great option for any time of day, appreciated for its distinct flavor combination and health advantages.

INDIAN CHAI

Equipment

  • Flavor Bold
  • Flavor Spiced
  • Flavor Nutty

Instructions
 

  • Black BOP (Broken Orange Pekoe) Tea
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Cardamom
  • Cloves
  • Pepper

Notes

Medium Caffeine
Origin: USA

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