Chai in the U.S. is quite a different experience compared to what you would enjoy in India. “Chai tea” and “chai tea latte” options found on menus in most coffee shop chains are in no way an authentic representation of the balanced, flavorful tea beverage known and loved as chai (or, masala chai) in India.
In India, chai plays an integral role in peoples’ daily lives, but it is so much more than just a cup of tea, it is an experience and an opportunity to bring people together. In fact, more than 80% of the Indian population consumes chai on a daily basis. It is the second most commonly offered beverage served to guests when visiting someone’s home, and the chai served will have been made fresh minutes before.
Unfortunately, the kind of fresh, authentic chai served and enjoyed in India is hard to come by in the United States, and it can be even harder to make. It requires time, patience, skill, and a great deal of care. Not to mention the energy to clean up afterward. Proper, authentic chai is delicious and amazingly enjoyable any time of the year. It can be enjoyed hot or cold, customizable to your preference and mood on any given day.
How do you make a chai at home?
Ingredients & Equipment to Make a Homemade Chai
Before we lay out our recipe, let’s run through what you will need to have on hand to make a perfect, homemade chai:
Black Tea Leaves: We will use black tea leaves (loose black tea) picked from a local Indian store but feel free to pick some up anywhere convenient for you. We like our black tea to swim around while cooking with all of the other ingredients. If you choose to use black tea bags, be cautious when selecting and ideally search for a brand that focuses on using a great quality black tea. The super simple black tea bags are generally a pretty low quality of tea and tea dust - this could leave your chai less robust in tea flavor.
Spice Blend: Raw, whole spices are going to make all the difference in your homemade chai. Cloves and cinnamon sticks can be put in the pot whole, the cardamom pods should be torn open or gently ground with a mortar/pestle and nutmeg can be chopped with a knife or smashed up with the mortar/pestle. If you’re using ginger, that can be sliced thin.
Sugar: We will use jaggery for this recipe but you’re welcome to substitute with coconut sugar or raw cane sugar.
Milk: Lactose-free milk is generally what we use but you can also use whole milk, 2% milk, oat milk or regular unsweetened almond milk.
Saucepan + Spoon: A medium-sized saucepan will work best for the portion of chai we will make and also grab a silicone spatula, wooden spoon or something similar to stir things around with.
Fine Mesh Tea Strainer: This is a very important piece of equipment for chai making at home… Once your chai is ready, you will need to be able to strain it very well and ensure all the loose tea and spices are separated from your caramel brown liquid.
Not an overwhelming amount of ingredients and equipment, but quite a few things to have on hand at all times if you were looking for a homemade chai on the regular.
The Ultimate Chai Recipe
Let the fun begin! Chai is a great option at any time of day. Enjoy this chai recipe to jumpstart your morning or as an afternoon pick-me-up. It's even great when unwinding at the end of a long day.
This authentic chai recipe yields two beautiful cups of flavor-packed nirvana. Share your homemade chai with a friend or enjoy a second cup on those days when you need a little extra boost.
1 Tablespoon Black Tea Leaves (7 grams)
1 ½ cup Water
3 whole Cloves
½ teaspoon fresh grated/crushed Nutmeg
7 pods fresh Cardamom, split open
1 tbsp packed Jaggery (or your sugar of choice)
¾ cup Milk or dairy alternative
Instructions for Making Chai at Home:
Add water, tea and spices to the medium sized pot, stir well and bring to a boil.
Once boiling, turn heat to low and let simmer for 6 minutes.
At minute 5, put the jaggery in to let it combine with the tea and spices for the final minute.
Add the milk, stir, turn the heat to medium-high and bring back to a boil.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for at least 6 more minutes.
- You should see the color deepening and a skin forming on the top of your chai… this is perfect!
- Your tea, milk and spices are gently rolling under that skin on top, brewing up a perfect cup… don’t break the skin during these 6 minutes!
- At 6 minutes, you can break the skin slowly and stir everything around to see the color underneath and decide if you want to simmer a bit longer to increase the flavor.
- We simmer our chai to about 9 minutes… we feel this timing gives the perfect balance of tea tannins and spice infusion
- You’re looking for the color @ this stage… simmer until you see a beautiful caramel-sih brown and the aromas should be amazing
- If you want MORE spice & tannins, simmer to 11-12 minutes
- Strain your chai straight in to mugs or a small pitcher -- be sure to scoop all the tea out of the pot and use your spatula to press the tea & spices down inside the strainer, squeezing out all of the chai.
- This will give you right around 12oz of brewed chai, the perfect 6oz pick me up for any time of day - pair with your snack of choice & enjoy!
Cheers to making your perfect chai, right at home!