Indian chai also called masala chai is black tea brewed with milk, sugar and a complex blend of herbs and spices. Typical chai spices consist of cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, and cloves. These spices are known to create a warming soothing effect and act as a natural digestive aid.
Many versions of chai
Each region of India has their own variation of chai with every family having their own chai formula. In the Northern regions chai is made with fresh grated ginger and green cardamom pods boiled together with milk, black tea and sugar. While in the Western region of India in Gujarat they make chai with a custom chai spice blend. Some folks even add fresh herbs such as mint leaves and lemongrass as their flavoring agents. Any combination of fresh herbs and spices can be used to make chai.
How to make chai
The method for making Indian chai is a very specific one. Water, black tea, milk, and spices are boiled together to bring out all the flavors. It has to have sugar – and plenty of it. In my opinion chai might as well be a tea dessert because honestly Indian chai doesn’t taste the same without the sugar.
In my husband’s Gujarati family drinking chai is like Americans drinking coffee – HAVE TO HAVE IT EVERY DAY! My Father-in-law drinks cups and cups of chai on any given day. Two cups in the morning, two in the afternoon, and two cups at night. With their own family chai spice-blend, learning how to make chai in Hitesh’s family is almost a rite of passage.
Making chai – a family’s “must know”
After I got married one of the first things I learnt how to make from my Mom-in-law – Usha is how to brew chai. Here is a recipe for making chai the way my Mom-in-law taught me years ago.
How to make Indian chai
This recipe makes 4 cups of chai.
- 2 cups water
- 4 tsp black tea leaves
- 1 tsp chai spice and these fresh ingredients which are my additions – such as 1-2 tsp fresh grated ginger and 2 green cardamom pods. If you don’t have a chai spice blend, use just the fresh ginger and cardamom.
- 4-6 tsp sugar
- 2 cups milk
- In a pot bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add 4 tsp black tea leaves, 1 tsp chai spice, fresh grated ginger and 2 bruised cardamom pods.
- Boil for 2-3 minutes until the color of black tea comes through and aroma of spices are released. Next add sugar and let the sugar dissolve.
- Add 2 cups milk and bring to a boil. Once the milk and tea mixture come to a boil, chai is ready. The color of chai should be a creamy brown color.
- Once chai is ready strain in a teapot to serve.
- Cook’s Notes: If the chai is too dark add more milk. If the brew is too light add more tea leaves and bring to a boil to allow the flavors to come through. Taste test and add more sugar if you want it sweeter, add more spices if you want it spicier and let chai boil a minute longer. Strain the tea and pour into a tea pot.
- Serve hot chai with a side of shortbread cookie or any butter cookie.
- Try making Indian chai and see how this spiced tea can warm you up on any day.