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 first hand 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.
Watch how authentic masala chai is made in India!
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 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 here is to find the perfect balance between them.
- Black tea
What tea is used for 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.
- Assam, Darjeeling is often used in India because they are grown there. 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.
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.
What spices are used 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: Fresh ginger, cardamom pods, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns and star anise.
- 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.
Lightly crush the whole spices before tossing into a pot of water with the black tea.
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.
You can also use a black tea bag or two.
Bring one cup of water with the spices and loose tea, just to a boil- then turn off the heat and let steep for 10 minutes. Boiling the tea will make it bitter, so just bring it to a boil.
Once it steeps, add the milk.
What type of milk to use in Masla Chai?
- In India, whole milk is typically used in Masala Chai.
- I’ve been substituting almond milk and oat milk with beautiful results.
- If you like a rich masala chai- add one full cup of milk. If you like a thinner chai, you can cut the milk with water – for example, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup water.
- So in a nutshell, if you like a richer, thicker tea, use more milk (or even use all milk instead of 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.
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 😉
Strain and serve.
And 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.
And there you have it, masala chai, like they make in India. A delicious morning beverage or afternoon pick-me-up.
Feel free to make this ahead, or make a huge batch ( leaving the milk part out) and store in the fridge. Then simply pull it out from the fridge and heat up with the milk.
Happy New Year Friends! May this cozy authentic Masala Chai bring comfort and warmth to help get us all through these cold months. Serve with Spicy Chai Molasses Cookies!
Love and cheers,
How to make authentic Masala Chai, like they do in India, using whole spices. Vegan and Sugar-Free adaptable.
- 5–7 green cardamom pods
- 3–4 whole cloves
- 1–2 star anise (optional )
- 5–7 peppercorns (optional)
- 1 cup of water
- 2–3 slices ginger (or more! skins ok)
- ½ cinnamon stick– split lengthwise ( use your fingers to separate)
- 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, cinnamon and black tea. I like to muddle the ginger a bit right in the pot.
- Bring to a boil. Turn off heat (don’t boil the tea, it will get bitter) and let it steep at least 10 minutes…. or for several hours. The longer, the more flavor!
- 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: Instead of the full cup of milk, I typically use a ratio of ½ water and ½ milk. Many prefer the richness of a full cup 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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