A Spicy Perspective

Authentic Indian Chai

How To Make Chai Tea… the authentic kind.

How to Make Chai Tea

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.

How to Make Indian Chai Tea

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.

chai

Boil for at least 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.

chai teachai tea recipe
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 Tea

How To Make Chai Tea

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time:1 minute

Cook Time:5 minutes

Did you make this recipe?   Leave a review »

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:

  1. Press the cardamom pods until they crack. Bring the water, tea, star anise, cinnamon, and cardamom to a boil.
  2. 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.
  3. Place the used cardamom pods in the bottom of the cups for good friends.
  4. Makes 4 American-sized servings or 12+ Indian-sized servings.
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122 comments on “Authentic Indian Chai”

  1. This came out good but I couldn’t taste any of the flavors of the spices. It just tastes like black tea with milk and sugar. Am I doing something wrong? I followed the recipe exactly as written.

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  3. I love this recipe! how long will this stay good stored in the fridge?

  4. Just back from India for the umpteenth time and my first port of call arriving in Mumbai is the chai whalla at Anderi railway station.  The stations are the best places to experience this distinctive taste of India but make sure you don’t fall for the tea bag versions which seem to be creeping in.  Also don’t miss the other taste of India, Kulfi.
    Thanks for the brewing tips.

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  6. Thanks for the recipe! But why was the sentence — “a friend who spoke English well” necessary?

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  9. My Daughter and I went to a very authentic Indian Market in Kansas City today. A very nice Indian gentlemen hooked us up with his recipe.  Except it is very different from the chai that I teach to my students in culinary school.  At the school we use milk black tea cinnamon cardamom pods ginger clove and star of anise. This guy sold us Hibiscus chamomile Indian Sage cinnamon and anise seed.  My question is, is this to make the tea also?  Please advise. 

    Chef Michael

    • Hi Michael, I’ve never heard of (or tasted) that version, but India is an extremely diverse country with varied culinary styles throughout. Maybe that is a popular blend in a different India state. Sounds good!

  10. This is a yummy recipe, I have been obsessed with Chai and drinking it everyday for the past few weeks! 
    I just ordered this amazing chai blend on etsy and hight recommend it!
    https://www.etsy.com/listing/263470098/medicinal-masala-chai-blend

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  15. Born in India to American parents, we enjoyed Indian tea at our table every day. I’ve never used star anise but will certainly give it a whirl. I love this drink and readily share the recipe I grew up drinking with others. In India you can get variations of the same drink with little tweaks to change the flavor. Frankly I’ve never really liked it with ginger. Instead of star anise we use cloves which have much the same intensity. Thanks for sharing. Oh, and the milk used makes a HUGE difference, doesn’t it? ;-) Skim or light % milk doesn’t cut it, buffalo is best but a rich whole or half and half will work well. Nice to meet a true chai lover!

    • We were in India last summer. We rode a train from Jaipur to Mumbai. The chai tea man would go down the corridor and call “Chai Chai Chai”. It was served out of a tin container into a paper cup. Maybe I was really thirsty or hungry but it was the most amazing drink. I am making chai right now as I remember that I purchased spices and I discovered a whole bag of cardamom. It smells divine in my kitchen. My boys are waiting for a cup of this delicious tea.

  16. I appreciate, result in I discovered just what I was taking a look for.
    You have ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a
    nice day. Bye

  17. I will be trying this recipe out tonight. Looks delicious.

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  20. I just attended the birthday party of my daughter’s friend who is Indian and was introduced to Indian chai…this recipe is almost exactly what I had at the party, but I too suggest letting the spices steep for longer for a more robust taste. Delicious!

  21. Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe. Such a lovely thing to make and share with friends. They love it… :)
    Keep the recipes comingAa

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  30. 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.

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  32. 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.

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  35. 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!!

  36. 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!

  37. 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

    • 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.

      • 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. :)

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  39. 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.

  40. 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.

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

  42. 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!

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

    • 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.

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

    • 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. :)

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  47. 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.

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  49. 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.

  50. Really Thanks for this recipe. Having an Indian husband made me to search for a good chai recipe as he requested me one morning for a tea and I thought I want to give him something nice for his breakfast. It was a surprise for him, as he was used to have just tea bag, water and little bit of milk. He straight saw the difference and I was happy to see a smile on his face. Will definitely make it again :) xx

  51. Simply loved you photography.
    This tea looks tempting. Will try it for sure.

  52. I have been searching for a chai tea recipe that would taste like the one my old boss used to make. After trying many recipes I found this one. It is perfect and so delicious! Thank you so much for sharing.

  53. We use cumin seed and cardamom

  54. I work part time as a waiter in a fantastic Indian restaurant in the Blue Mountains and I just love the traditional Chai that my boss only makes for staff, a real Chai will hit the back of your throat and liven you up, just perfect!

  55. Hi there!
    I have to tell you that I recently found your lovely recipe and made the tea for myself and my granddaughter. (She’s a tea connoisseur.) It was her first cup of authentic chai, and she said, “It tastes like a good donut!” That’s hIgh praise in her little world. Myself…well, I loved it, too. Thank you for taking the time to share your wonderful chai recipe and the story behind it.
    Best,
    Toni

  56. Love your post about chai! Also love the glass teacups you featured in the photos. Where did you purchase them????

    Thanks!

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  61. Thanks for the recipe. In addition to your stated spices, I added 3 thick slices of fresh ginger, 1/2 t fennel seeds, 5 whole peppercorn into the boiling tea. I then added both sugar and milk and continued the boil for another 3 mins. Then I strained out the spices. This allowed the milk to pick up more flavor. It was perfect both hot and over ice! Thanks again!

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  63. I made this last night and I thought it was just ok. I think I would boil the spices a bit longer and then add the tea since 5 mins of boiling didn’t seem to be enough to bring out the flavors of the spices. It was very mild. I think this is a good starter recipe but I think there’s plenty of room to experiment, possibly add some ginger too. It could be that I’m just use to stronger spiced tea. Thanks for the recipe though!

    • No problem Lynn. I’m wondering if there is a chance some of your spices are old. If so, it might take longer to release there flavors…

      • I’ve been using this recipe for a few months and fresh spices are really key I have found. When fresh ingredients are used, this method produces a strong and spicy yet sweet Chai that is to die for.

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  65. Our LA food bloggers’ group just went on a tour of Little India and at the place we met, we were served chai. I had it before, but this one was so much better. I have all the ingredients and I will definitely make it, as I am switching from coffee to tea gradually.
    And I am more inclined to drink like Indians do, in smaller cups, but with the obligatory cardamom pod (I love and respect myself, of course)
    Love the photos!

  66. Yes please! I’m a chai addict, but have never tried making my own. Thanks for the recipe!

  67. Love Chai Tea! I’ll have to make this!

  68. I love chai and it is really hard to find a great cup here in Texas. Who knew how easy is it to make, kinda embarrased I never searched out a recipe. Lucky me there it was in my Google reader, yay!

  69. Kinda funny (or at least mildly interesting) that American traditions largely revolve around those once-a-year type things (Thanksgiving dinner, dressing up for Halloween, Easter Egg hunts, fireworks for the 4th of July), while the rest of the world has traditions that they serve up each and every day. Wonder why that is. The melting pot aspect?

  70. Thanks for posting this. Can’t wait to try it! I was in India (for the first time) about two months ago. I’ve been told it’s very different now than it was even a few years ago. But I loved it.

  71. Had to lol at the servings…Chai is my fave, Sommer!

  72. I LOVE Chai tea. Better yet, made at home so I save some money!

  73. Delicious love your recipe

  74. Definitely an interesting take on it! Your recipe is very similar to my mom’s except she doesn’t use the star anise. But there are so many varieties of chai! Thx for sharing :)

  75. I love chai and your recipe sounds fantastic!

  76. How funny about the “vip” bit, I guess it’s really a special spice!

  77. This looks so inviting. With all the blustering going on outside my window I would really go for one of these to warm up. Looks fantastic.

  78. I’m so thirsty!!! You certainly made this look WONDERFUL!

  79. Wonderful! Sounds so comforting…thanks!

  80. ginger& cardamom is something that is very common in Indian chai -loved this spicy version too ! nice post sommer

  81. Sommer, Loved reading your rendition of over doses of Indian chai..
    Chai is part and parcel of the basics of hospitality in India. When someone comes home, chai is always a saving grace when you have nothing else to offer in a jiffy..
    VIP nut! Hah… so very true.. brought a familiar smile to my face :)
    Ginger (fresh or dry) is a more common additive..

  82. I love anything chai. Hope you’re well!

  83. What a lovely chai tea. I can so see myself enjoying a cup of this with some biscotti. Thanks for sharing, Sommer. This is an interesting and informative post!

  84. That is such a sweet tradition! And I just bought those same exact napkins from Pier 1! Love them…

  85. This is now in my to do list. I love Oregon Chai Tea (hopefully I’m not offending any Indians). I love love cardamom, so I will have to try this.

  86. Sounds great, I need to try cardamom. Can you believe I never had it? Not even sure what it tastes like. Love the recipe and your photo’s are gorgeous!

  87. Oooh this looks amazing. I love chai tea but the thought of making a true authentic chai is awesome and I need to try this!

  88. Loving this, Sommer! I guess I have probably never had authentic chai but I’m definitely trying this!!

  89. One of my daughter’s friends had her over for a playdate when she was in preschool. Her Mom, from India, made me the most incredible cup of Chai I have ever tasted. I still long for a cup of it. Now I may be able to make it myself. Thanks!

  90. I love chai. I always order it when I go to Indian restaurants because theirs tastes so much better. Now I know why!

  91. Gorgeous photos and maybe an inspiration for me to try making chai tea. My daughter loves it and will sometimes bring some with her from Starbucks and I’ve not been a fan but then she makes it so sweet I would not be a fan if it were coffee!

    We’re a bit later getting started than originally planned but I and two cohorts are doing an #IndianFoodPalooza starting Monday…please come and link up this beverage on my site then; it would be a fabulous addition. They are the experts but I’m excited about seeing everyone’s Indian dishes and trying out many things new to me.

  92. I like your version! Nothing charges me better than a nice masala chai :)

  93. proper, authentic chai recipe – I will definitely be making this! Gorgoeous phots too.

  94. Mmmm, that looks amazing! My wife loves chai, I’ll be sure to share this with her :)

  95. I Love chai! Beautiful photos, love those glass mugs!

  96. This is so wonderful and useful! I never knew how to make chai!

  97. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous photos, Sommer! I have made authentic chai a couple of times and there really is no comparison to the “fake” stuff.

  98. My goodness. This looks absolutely delicious. What a great post and beautiful pictures!

  99. My father grew up in Calcutta, India until he was 18. He’s been in the states since but still always talks about the “street food.” Chai actually just came up last weekend when he was over for dinner when I asked what kind of tea he wanted with dessert and he gave me a long tirade about how these bags of chai are BS compared to what they were in India. haha Now I know what the difference is :)

    • Your father is quite right – I haven’t had a decent chai since 1980 (out of a little clay cup at the railway station).
      Australians don’t have a clue about a decent cup of chai ;)

  100. Would be so warming and delicious, gorgeous pictures!

  101. I love chai. I used to drink quite a few of them every day but now it’s come down to just one mug a day :)

  102. Chai latte’s are my favorite! This recipe is lovely. Great idea!

  103. Thank you for spreading the chai love!

    Our founder, Amanda Hamilton, fell in love with chai when she visited Indian, and she has now developed Drink Me Chai to be the U.K.’s No. 1 chai latte.

    Our chai is a powder that you add hot water to to make an instant and authentic chai. Simples!

  104. Hmm. The proper chai has the perfect blend…..