Authentic Indian Chai

How to Make Chai Tea

How To Make Chai Tea… the authentic kind.

Chai is the lifeblood of India. Served in scant shot glasses from dawn until way past dusk, this beverage is EVERYWHERE you look. It’s in little make-shift cafes, sold from chai-wallahs at every bus station, train station and street corner, brewing in every home.

It’s been fifteen years sense I last visited India. Yet I’ll never forget sitting in open-air chai shops drinking creamy, ultra-sweet chai with friends.

True Indian chai is a far cry from the watered-down American coffeehouse version. Authentic chai is made with thick buffalo milk, considerably too much sugar, black tea, and cardamom pods–-if you’re lucky.

Indian Chai

The last summer I spent in India, a friend who spoke English well, nicknamed the cardamom pod the VIP nut. She explained that cardamom pods went in the chai cups of those they considered special. If they didn’t care for the person, and were just serving them chai to be polite, no cardamom! We sipped chai multiple times a day, every day. Everywhere we went, new friends would offer it with bright smiles.

I miss those chai over-dosed summers.

How To Make Chai Tea… the authentic kind.

Press the cardamom pods until they crack. Bring the water, tea, star anise, cinnamon, and cardamom to a boil.

Boil for 3-5 minutes until the tea is very dark and has reduced to about 2 cups. Strain and add the sugar. Add the milk and stir until hot.


Place the (used) cardamom pods in the bottom of the cups for good friends!
Makes 4 American-sized servings or 12+ Indian-sized servings.

Authentic Chai
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Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 1 minute

Cook Time: 5 minutes

How To Make Chai Tea

Ingredients:

2 ¼ cups water
1 whole star anise
1 stick cinnamon
4 cardamom pods, cracked
4-5 black tea bags, or ¼ cup loose black tea
2 cups whole milk or half-n-half
¼ cup sugar

Directions:

Press the cardamom pods until they crack. Bring the water, tea, star anise, cinnamon, and cardamom to a boil.

Boil for 3-5 minutes until the tea is black and has reduced to about 2 cups. Strain and add the sugar. Add the milk and stir until hot.

Place the used cardamom pods in the bottom of the cups for good friends.

Makes 4 American-sized servings or 12+ Indian-sized servings.

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92 Responses to “Authentic Indian Chai”

  1. #
    51
    Alia — September 11, 2013 @ 2:57 pm

    Hi,
    This recipe looks really good! Usually I just make a concentrate and refrigerate it. Can I do the same with this one? How long do you think I could refrigerate
    It for?

    Thanks.

    Reply

    • Sommer — September 12th, 2013 @ 6:48 am

      Hi Alla, I don’t see why not. Let me know how it goes. :)

      Reply

    • joneser — February 8th, 2014 @ 1:26 am

      Add a few drops of Grape seed extract, it’s a power preservative

      Reply

  2. #
    52
    Sean McDine — October 20, 2013 @ 5:17 am

    We make this at work. We use the same method but for this amount we would use:

    4 cups water (boil for 15 not 5 mins)

    1 extra star anise (total 2: broken into pieces to infuse)

    1 bay leaf

    1/4 vanilla bean

    4 whole cloves

    Remainer of ingredients and proceedure remains the same.

    Reply

  3. #
    53
    Rita — October 20, 2013 @ 12:32 pm

    I live in a small town where would I buy those ingredients?

    Reply

    • Sommer — October 20th, 2013 @ 9:00 pm

      Hi Rita, you should be able to find everything you need at your local grocery store. If not, you could always order spices on line. :)

      Reply

  4. #
    54
    Cheryl — October 31, 2013 @ 11:48 pm

    Hi, would it be okay to substitute the sugar for honey, agave, or artificial sweetner, and the milk for soy or almond milk (or none at all if possible)? Thanks!

    Reply

    • Sommer — November 1st, 2013 @ 6:01 am

      Hi Cheryl, It’s possible to adjust this to meet your dietary needs, but it will change the flavor a bit. Good Luck! :)

      Reply

    • Dan Espinosa — February 21st, 2014 @ 12:17 pm

      Best not to use agave, it will make you fat. Honey is ok, maple syrup is better. It’s not chai without milk; almond milk is ok, don’t use soy milk – over the years soy has become one of the most GMO intensive products.

      Reply

  5. #
    55
    scolock — November 12, 2013 @ 7:19 pm

    Thank you much.
    super yummy.
    going to try a more potent brew next time. a longer steep.

    Reply

  6. #
    56
    Amy hill — November 20, 2013 @ 10:13 am

    On the page I saw the recipe the amount of the ingredients was not showing. I would really like to make this tea, I love it.

    Reply

  7. #
    57
    Chella — January 1, 2014 @ 7:01 pm

    Wow, this chai was really good! I didn’t have green cardamom so I used black instead. I normally use milk so I used half and half, and I felt the creaminess really complimented it! This is probably the best chai recipe I have ever used.

    Reply

  8. #
    58
    Sherry D — January 26, 2014 @ 6:11 pm

    What a lovely post! I have been trying to find the perfect spice mix to get me started with chai. I am wondering what kind of black tea you use? Everyone seems to be different – from broken darjeeling, to orange pekoe, to lipton yellow label. All are “authentic” so I suppose it’s totally up to preference! So out of curiosity, what did you use? Thanks so much!

    Sherry

    Reply

    • Sommer — January 26th, 2014 @ 9:57 pm

      Hi Sherry, I usually buy it at the ethnic food store, so it’s not a specific brand. But I would go with whatever tea brand you usually prefer.

      Reply

      • Sherry D — January 26th, 2014 @ 10:45 pm

        Okay, thank you. I am just learning my teas and I actually just recently figured out that Lipton Yellow Label is an orange pekoe. I thought orange pekoe was a specific leaf type, but apparently it’s just a standard for tea. I get so confused sometimes! I’ll have to check out the teas in the Indian section at the global food mart. :)

  9. #
    59
    Shalley — January 27, 2014 @ 4:46 pm

    I love coffee but need to give my adrenals a break. I’m switching to my tea of choice — *chai* and found your recipe. As it turns out I am a water buffalo farmer. We don’t milk ours but now I’m going to have to! The local Indian population literally begs us for buffalo milk, insisting they will buy every drop. This must be why. Thanks for the delicious recipe!

    Reply

  10. #
    60
    Prashanth — February 18, 2014 @ 9:11 am

    Hello Sommer,
    Thanks for posting this.

    A variant is ginger tea – usually prepared when someone has cold or sore throat. A little bit of ginger ( quantity depends on how much flavor you want- some like it light and some want it dominant) is added to water when you start boiling it. Rest of the process is the same.

    The process of adding milk to boiled tea reminds me of titration in Chemistry lab. You will have to monitor the color change with every added drop of milk and have to stop at an exact point. The whole color change process is a thing of beauty.

    I really hope you got to taste the roadside Chaiwalla’s chai if you went to Mumbai. You get a cup for 10 cents and it tastes like heaven. When I was traveling on work in 2008 with a German colleague, I drank the roadside tea, but was hesitant to recommend it to my colleague. He insisted on trying it and was hooked. He drank the roadside vendor’s tea 5 times a day everyday thereafter until we left India.

    Darjeeling tea and Assam tea are some of the most popular (and expensive) ones. But buyers have to ensure that they are from Darjeeling and Assam respectively. Else, it will be like buying French Wine made in, well, anywhere outside of France.

    Love, Peace and Chai!!

    Reply

  11. #
    61
    Hyde — March 15, 2014 @ 9:05 pm

    This is off the topic of chai tea, but could you please tell me where you purchased the cups in the picture? I would love to have smaller tea/coffee cups.

    Reply

    • Sommer — March 16th, 2014 @ 10:21 am

      Hi Hyde, I think they came from Home Goods a few years back. I’m not sure if they still have anything like that.

      Reply

      • Hyde — March 17th, 2014 @ 1:32 pm

        Thank you, at any rate.

  12. #
    62
    Viveka Kyahti — March 21, 2014 @ 12:30 am

    There are something like 4000 languages spoken in India, and almost as many ways to make chai. When I was there, the family I lived with taught me to make it with cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. Sometimes I leave out the black tea, if I want to drink it after six pm.

    Reply

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