Making Chai Tea 101
It’s that time of year when our kitchens are fragrant with warming spices. Common spices, like cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg make their appearance in many holiday dishes and drinks. One of my favorite and immensely popular drinks is my chai tea recipe. This soothing drink not only tastes delicious, there’s a bonus. Chai tea includes tummy-friendly ginger tea benefits, as well as other healthful qualities.
I’m sharing a traditional chai tea recipe using some whole spices. For those of you that prefer quicker versions using ground spices, I’ve got that covered too.
What is Chai Tea?
Traditionally, chai is a sweet, milky tea, originating in India. Sometimes it’s called masala chai. Masala means “spice” and chai means “tea.”
Traditional Chai Tea Recipe
Chai tea is made mostly of spices. Making your own blend of chai allows you to be creative and customize the blend. Here’s a basic chai tea recipe. I will tell you that mixing the spices is like blending a perfume. You decide what to add to make it more to your taste, whether it’s some dried orange peel, fennel seeds, or even dried lemon herbs.
This chai tea recipe makes a special gift. Place the roasted and coarsely pounded blend into a decorative jar and tie a gift tag on it with instructions.
- 5 tablespoons green cardamom pods or 1 tablespoon cardamom seeds
- 2 tablespoons whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 7 to 8 cinnamon sticks, 2” long each
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 whole star anise
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Combine all of the ingredients except the ginger and nutmeg in a non-stick, ungreased heavy skillet. Over low heat, toast the spices for about three minutes, until fragrant. Inhale the intoxicating aroma! If using cardamom pods, they may start to split and release their seeds.
- Add the ginger and nutmeg and blend. Let cool.
- Pound everything briefly, just enough to crush the spices coarsely. I like to do this with a mortar and pestle, but you can do it in a spice/coffee grinder, or put the spices in a plastic bag and pound with a mallet or rolling pin.
- Transfer to an airtight container where the mixture will keep up to three months.
Coffee Shop Latte Style
- Combine one cup milk with up to one tablespoon chai mix and sweetener to taste. (Cane sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, or stevia are all good choices.) Bring to a simmer and then turn off heat.
- Cover and let infuse for 10 minutes while you brew a pot of Assam or Darjeeling (these are Indian teas — you can also use black tea) using two cups boiling water and two teaspoons tea or two bags of tea. Let tea infuse five minutes, then strain.
- Reheat the spiced milk if necessary and strain it into two large teacups. Froth if you choose. Pour in as much hot tea as you like.
Why Chai Tea is Good for You
- Cardamom is an anti-spasmodic and a digestive stimulant.
- Cloves are antiseptic — dentists used to use clove oil to soothe gums. Cloves are good for gastric discomfort. This is a warming, healing spice.
- Cinnamon is pungent and warming and is good for digestion. It is also anti-spasmodic and antiseptic
- Ginger is among the herbs/spices on my healing herbs list. It helps the circulation, is an expectorant, and is calming to the stomach.
- Star anise is the star-shaped fruit of an evergreen native to China. It tastes a bit like licorice and is a stimulant and diuretic, and is thought to relieve sore throats.
- Black pepper has anti-inflammatory qualities.
- Coriander seeds aid in digestion.
- Nutmeg helps lower blood pressure.
Quick Chai Tea Recipe
With just a few minutes and ground pantry spices, you can make healthful, satisfying chai tea. Make it plain or add frothed milk for a latte!
Ingredients for Plain Chai tea
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon each: ginger, cardamom, and nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon allspice
- Pinch of cloves
- 2 black tea bags
- Sweetener of choice
- Bring water and spices to a boil.
- Turn off heat, cover, and let spices infuse for five minutes.
- Turn the heat back on, add the tea, and remove from heat. Cover and let infuse three more minutes.
- Strain. Sweeten to taste.
For Chai Latte
- 1 cup milk
- Sweetener to taste
- Cinnamon and/or nutmeg (optional)
- Bring milk and sweetener to a simmer. Remove from heat and froth if you like.
- Pour a half cup chai tea into a mug and pour in enough warm milk to your liking.
- Sprinkle with a dash of cinnamon and/or nutmeg. Enjoy!
“Instant” Chai Tea Recipe
Start with chai spice tea bags and you’re good to go!
- 2 chai spice tea bags
- 1/3 cup boiling water
- ¾ cup milk
- Sweetener to taste
- Cinnamon and/or nutmeg (optional)
- Infuse the tea in boiling water for three to five minutes, then strain.
- Heat milk, then froth if you like.
- Combine chai tea and milk, sweeten to taste, then sprinkle with cinnamon and/or nutmeg if desired.
Chai Tea Mix in a Jar
Let the little ones help mix this up. This is an awesome gift for teachers, neighbors, and service people. This chai tea recipe makes a rich, creamy drink and is one of my most requested. Write instructions for storage and serving on gift tag if you are giving this to someone.
- ¾ cup powdered milk
- 1¼ cups non-dairy powdered coffee creamer
- 1½ cups powdered French vanilla flavored coffee creamer
- 2 cups sugar
- 1¼ cups brown sugar, packed
- 2 cups plain instant tea, unsweetened
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon or little more to taste
- 1¼ teaspoon each: ground cloves, ground cardamom
- 1½ teaspoons nutmeg
- ¾ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon white or black pepper, finely ground
- Whisk all ingredients together.
- In blender or food processor, blend one cup at a time until the mixture is the consistency of fine powder.
- Makes about nine cups of mix. Store tightly at room temperature.
To serve, stir two heaping tablespoons of chai tea mix into a mug of hot milk or water. I like milk for its creamy texture.
- What’s the best milk for chai tea? That’s up to you. I use whole milk. Half & half, low fat, evaporated, fat-free, or dairy-free works, too. (My neighbor uses milk from the Jersey cow he owns — lucky him!)
- Why froth? To get coffeehouse quality chai tea, frothing the milk is essential. It lends a creamy and light texture to the tea. Evaporated milk doesn’t froth as well as other milk, but makes for a nice, thicker beverage.
- Froth the milk with an immersion blender, hand mixer, battery operated frother, or a whisk.
Gilding the Lily
Top your chai tea latte with a dollop of whipped cream, then sprinkle with cinnamon and/or nutmeg if you like.
Pumpkin Chai Latte
You can turn any chai tea latte into pumpkin chai.
After straining the milk mixture, whisk in pumpkin puree to taste. Start with a tablespoon or so and go from there. Top finished chai with whipped cream and a sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice.
Adding Non-Traditional Herbs
I add dry herbs like lemon verbena, mint, stevia, and rose geranium to my dried teas. These lend natural sweetness and nutrition.