This authentic Masala Chai recipe features fragrant Indian spices, black tea, and your choice of milk (plant-based or dairy). A cozy comforting mug of goodness. Serve this with Spicy Chai Molasses Cookies!
Many thoughts appear in the mind, but it is the heart that holds one and not another. ~Dorothy Hunt
Call me a late bloomer, but it wasn’t until I went to India and experienced Chai firsthand that I fell in love with it. Now, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t either make myself a cup, or pine for it.
Yes, I’ve had it numerous times here in the states, but somehow, either it was overly sweetened, too bland, or perhaps I had just never truly “connected” with it. It was almost like I met Chai for the first time at age 50 when I went to India. I can’t believe I lived so many years without it!
Masala Chai filled a void I never knew I had until those very first sips. ☕️
Here is a video of my favorite Chai Wallah at work- in a small village in Rajasthan, India. (Shot on my iPhone)
Authentic Masala Chai in India | 30-sec video
What is Masala Chai?
In India, masala means spice, and chai means tea. Spiced Tea. And that is exactly what Masala Chai is -black tea infused with fragrant spices, typically served with hot milk.
Here in the states, we often call this “chai tea”, or a chai tea latte. But in India, saying “chai tea”, is like saying “tea tea”. So that’s why in India, one says Masala Chai – or spiced tea. Good to know, right? 😉
Ingredients in Masala Chai
There are typically four components in Masala Chai and the secret is finding the perfect balance between them.
- Black Tea Leaves- or try decaf black tea. Assam and Darjeeling are often used in India because they are grown there.
- Whole Spices – cardamom, cinnamon, clove, black pepper, star anise and ginger root
- Milk (or nut milk)- plant-based milk or dairy milk both work great here! In India, whole milk is typically used in Masala Chai. For a plant-based chai, try almond milk or oat milk – both work great.
- Sweetener- use sugar, honey, maple, stevia, agave, your choice!
Best Tea for Masala Chai
- The base of the Masala Chai is typically black tea. Most strong, rich, dark black teas will work well in Masala Chai- something robust enough to hold up to all the flavorful spices. The tea need not be expensive.
- (I prefer to use a high-quality organic, loose black tea that I get in the bulk section of my grocery store. I use about a heaping tablespoon per serving.) Assam, Darjeeling or Ceylon.
- You can also use 1-2 black tea bags. Typical brands used are Lipton Yellow Label, and Taj Mahal, and PG Tips. Some households will custom blend their own teas to create their own signature flavor. This can be a very personal thing.
- Feel free to use decaf black tea.
What makes Masala Chai authentic is the use of spices. One thing is for certain, every single person in India probably has their own unique combination of spices they prefer in their masala chai and there is no one “right” way. It is very subjective.
Spices In Masala Chai
Chai Wallahs- the street vendors who make masala chai, all have their own unique blend of chai spices as well- and as you can probably guess, I was obsessed with watching them make their creations.
These are the chai spices I saw used the most in India:
I especially love the green cardamom pods I picked up in India. So here is a starting point for you but feel free to improvise and fine-tune to your own taste.
How to make Masala Chai
Step One: Lightly crush whole spices using a mortar and pestle.
STEP 2: Simmer the crushed spices in 1 cup water in a small pot or pan, for 5 minutes.
STEP 3. Add the black tea. Then turn off the heat and let it steep for 10 minutes. Boiling the tea will make it bitter, so just bring it to a boil, then turn the heat off.
Step 4: Add milk of choice.
If you prefer a “richer” masala chai- you can use all milk and skip the water, simmering the spices and tea, right in the milk. Or if you like a lighter masala chai, cut the milk with water. Up to you- a personal preference. I like half and half.
Step 5. Heat and sweeten the chai.
Bring the milk and tea just to a boil again, then add sweetener.
How to sweeten Masala Chai
- The fourth component of Masala Chai is the sweetener. In India, jaggery or cane sugar is typically used.
- I prefer sweetening Masala Chia with maple syrup or honey instead of sugar. But any sugar, or sugar alternative will work here.
- Sweeten to your own taste. For a large 8-ounce serving, I use about 2-3 teaspoons of maple syrup – to balance the spices and black tea. Perhaps this seems a bit much, but to me it tastes perfect.
- Find your own balance 😉 If it tastes overly bitter, it needs more sweetener.
Step 6. Strain and serve.
How to serve Masala Chai
Yes, it is very typical to serve chai in a glass (vs. a mug) in India, leaving some room at the top to hold the glass. But a cozy mug is perfect too.
And there you have it, Masala Chai as they make it in India. A delicious morning beverage or afternoon pick-me-up. I also love this in the evenings with decaf black tea.
Can Masala Chai Be made ahead?
Feel free to brew a big batch of chai ahead, (leaving out the milk) and store it in the fridge. Then simply pull it out from the fridge and heat it up with the milk.
Masala Chai Variations:
- During my second visit to India, where we primarily stayed in the North, it was very customary to see chai brewed the same way but with the addition of fresh mint leaves. It was heavenly.
- Add fennel seeds
- Add nutmeg
What to serve with Chai
Happy New Year, friends! May this cozy authentic Masala Chai bring comfort and warmth to help get us all through these cold months.
Love and cheers,
This authentic Masala Chai recipe is cozy and warm! Learn to make it like they do in India, using fragrant whole spices, black tea, and your choice of milk.
- 4–5 whole green cardamom pods (or sub white cardamom pods)
- 2 whole cloves
- 1–2 star anise (optional )
- 4–5 peppercorns (optional)
- 1 cup of water ( see notes)
- 2–3 slices ginger (or more! skins ok) , or sub 1-2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/2 cinnamon stick – split lengthwise
- 1–2 tablespoons loose-leaf black tea, (or 1–2 tea bags) Or sub-decaf black tea
- 1 cup milk of your choice- organic whole milk, almond milk, oat milk, soy milk, cashew milk, hemp milk ( I like unsweetened, vanilla-flavored almond or oat milk) See notes for “ratio”.
- 2–3 teaspoons (or more or less) maple syrup, honey, sugar or alternative. (Sugar is traditional, but I prefer maple. )
- Lightly crush cardamom pods, whole cloves, star anise and peppercorns, and place in a small pot with 1 cup of water. Add ginger and cinnamon. Muddle the ginger a bit right in the pot.
- Bring to a simmer, simmer gently for 5-10 minutes covered, and turn off the heat.
- Add the tea (Do not boil the tea, it can get bitter) and let it steep for at least 5-minutes.
- Add your choice of milk. Bring to a simmer once more, turn off the heat.
- Stir in your choice of sweetener, taste, adding more sweetener to taste. If it tastes bitter, you need more sweetener. Strain into a chai glass or mug.
- Feel the love. xoxo
TEA: Any dark, rich, robust black tea will work best here. Assam, Darjeeling, etc. You can also make the tea part as strong as you like. Start with one tablespoon loose leaf tea and add more according to your taste. Use loose-leaf or tea bags.
SPICES: Whole spices are preferred here but in a pinch feel free to add or sub ground spices to taste. You can add the ground spices at the end if you like.
MILK RATIO: you can use all milk if you prefer. I typically use a ratio of ½ water and ½ milk. Many prefer the richness of all milk, so feel free to adjust to your taste.
BATCH MAKING: You can make a big batch of the masala chai (without the milk) and refrigerate for up to 4 days, and heat up with the milk and sweetener when ready to serve.
You can add more whole spices and more black tea for an even stronger more concentrated version.
UPDATE: While in Northern India this past month, I had this Chai with the addition of a big handful of fresh mint leaves (simmering in the chai). ABSOLUTELY Delicious! Give it a try!
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