After traveling in India for five weeks and drinking multiple cups of chai daily, it’s hard to imagine my life without a good cup of Indian Masala Chai.
I had my first cup of chai while visiting a friend in Pune, India. It only took a few sips before I realized this would be a staple in my Indian diet. Thankfully, chai is undoubtedly India’s most popular drink and is readily available at almost every street corner.
I had the opportunity to take an Indian cooking class where I requested to learn the basics of what made a high-quality masala chai.
My instructor, a spice master, had a combination of various spices that created his unique masala blend. However, this mixture is only available in his shop.
While I was able to purchase this and take a small amount home with me, this wasn’t a sustainable source for continuing my chai obsession. So, I decided to dissect this mixture, spice by spice, to determine the perfect ratio of ingredients to create what I consider the perfect cup of Indian masala chai.
Here’s the recipe for how to make Indian Masala Chai at home!
First and foremost, it’s important to discuss exactly what masala chai is.
The word masala is a general term used for any number of spice combinations used in Indian cooking. And the word chai is Hindi for “tea.” So, when broken down, a masala chai is essentially spicy tea. Often in the western world, we hear of people drinking “chai tea” which is grammatically silly as it translates to “tea tea.”
So, with that said, a spicy tea can mean different things to different people. Hence why in India, a cup of masala chai will vary from place to place.
In general, though, the foundation for a cup of masala chai includes water, milk, black tea, spices, and sugar. The spice component can be as simple as fresh ginger or as inclusive as six different spices.
Regardless of the variations, chai is equally adored across all of India. It can be found on almost every street corner, where crowds gather to sip and enjoy conversation. It’s a welcoming gift in homes when new guests arrive. It’s the reason to pause at any moment and take a break from the busyness of life.
It’s so much more than just a cup of tea, it’s an integral part of life in India.
Serving Size: 2 cups
Prep time: 5 Min
Cooking time: 7 Min
- 1 cup of water
- 1 cup milk (Whole milk for best results)
- 2 Tsp Black Tea
- 1/4 Tsp Ground Cardamom
- 1/8 Tsp Ground Black Pepper
- 1/2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 1/4 Tsp Ground Cloves
- 3 Tsp Fresh Ginger (grated, skin on)
- 4 Tsp Sugar
Recipe + Preparation
- Combine 1 cup of water with black tea and all ground spices
- Bring mixture to a boil once. Once boiling, reduce heat/remove from the stove.
- Add 1 cup of milk.
- Bring mixture to a boil again. Once boiling, remove from heat, reduce to a simmer.
- Repeat this process to bring mixture to a boil three more times.
- After the mixture has boiled for a total of four times, add sugar and bring to a boil once more.
- After a total of five boils, your mixture is done.
- Pour the mix through a mesh tea strainer/cheesecloth to separate tea particles and spices from liquid mixture. Serve while hot.
Tips and Tricks
Different kinds of milk can be used for this recipe. However, the higher the milk fat, the creamier the product. Therefore, I recommend whole milk (but 2% will also work).
Milk alternatives like almond milk and soy milk can also be used. If you are going this route, pay attention to whether or not the milk is sweetened. If it is, you will need less sugar at the end. If it’s unsweetened, keep the sugar amount the same.
I use fresh ginger in this recipe. When using fresh ginger, there’s no need to bother with taking the skin off. Additionally, grating the ginger yields more flavor than slicing it. Dry, ground ginger can also be used but much less will be needed. Adjust per your taste preferences
I recommend using ground spices. In general, ground spices yield the best flavor in liquid bases (like this recipe) while whole spices are better in a hot oil base.
I use regular sugar in this recipe as this is what’s used in India. Other sugar alternatives can be used (honey, agave, etc). If you’re choosing to use one of these sugar alternatives, I would add them at the very end per your taste preferences.
Any kind of black tea will work. This recipe uses loose leaf tea but you can also use tea bags or cut open tea bags and pour out the leaves.
If you don’t have all the spices listed here or have a strong aversion to anything in the recipe, don’t fret, make your chai your own.
Increase the amounts of the spices you do enjoy and eliminate the ones you don’t. After all, masala just means a blend of spices so there’s no right or wrong.
Go on now, give it a chai!
Want to find other delicious foods from around the world to make? Check out these recipes!