I am Learning How to Make Indian Masala Chai Or Indian Spice Tea!

Chai tea poured with tea pot

Greg and I enjoy trying different dishes from other parts of the world. Being a tea lover I always enjoy hearing about the teas and how they are brewed. After having Indian Chicken Curry soup, we decided to learn more about Indian food. A co-worker, Sen, recommended an authentic Indian restaurant located in Amherst New York called Taste of India. Sen has been helping me learn more about Indian cooking and I asked him about Indian tea. He explained that you drink this tea after dinner to help mellow out a spicy meal to help with digestion. (These are my words on my understanding of the conversation.) This type of tea intrigued me as I enjoy a holistic approach to life. The picture below is the Indian Chai that Greg and I enjoyed at Taste of India. I treated this cup of Chai as if it was a glass of red wine. I took in the aroma that was a wonderful blend of spices. I swirled the cup a bit and saw the Chai was rich and creamy. My first taste was a warm sensation of spices and though it appeared to be rich it was not too sweet. I do not take milk with my tea or coffee — but this is the one time I agree with adding milk!

Chai Taste of India

I must admit I just loved this tea and set out to understand how to make it! The next morning I asked for help on Facebook and Twitter and was fortunate to receive many responses. I would like to thank everyone who took time to share information and advice. Meeta provided her family’s recipe plus a few other tea recipes for colds and sinus issues and many tips. Lalit provided his recipe that includes roasting and grinding the spices. Christy and Mohinder provided the teas they enjoy that can be purchased. Vipul provided herbs that may not blend well together, what to add if you have a cold, and the importance of using the right water. I copied all this great information into a word document so I would not lose any of it!

On Twitter, Jari did not know how to make this tea but was interested in it. He also knew that “chai” meant “tea” so when I said Chai tea I was really saying “tea tea”. That was rather amusing to me and of course I was glad that Jari brought that to my attention. I follow Peri’s blog (Peri’s Spice Ladle) and she has a posting on Ginger Spiced Chai – An Indian Tea Preparation. Peri encouraged me to find a blend that works for Greg and me by experimenting.

Before I could make my own Chai I needed the ingredients. Until I could get everything, I started with store-bought Chai bags. This helped me walk through the process that required boiling the water and then a second boil after adding the milk. The Chai came out good but of course not nearly as good as the home-brewed Chai from the Indian restaurant! I use one tea-bag for every 8-ounces of liquid. If I used 1 1/2 cups water and 1 1/2 cups milk, then I used 3 tea-bags.

Chai Single cup of chai with cinnamon stick

Finally, I was able to purchase all my spices and my first attempt was not too bad. Greg enjoyed it but I felt it was not good enough as the spices were too subtle. I was too conservative on my spice to liquid ratio. Luckily I wrote everything down so I quickly modified it for my next attempt. As I roasted my spices and ground them I remembered Lalit’s advice. Let your nose guide you. I knew my spice mixture was not quite right. I roasted and ground more spices to add to the mixture. After awhile, I felt the aroma was right and as Peri told me there is a dominant spice and the others are supporting spices. Now I am not sure if I got that part right as I am not an expert on these spices.

Lalit recommended using a mortar and pestle – which I do not own. I used our coffee grinder – as we no longer use it and it was clean. The Chai came out really good but the spices were ground finely since it is hard to control the coffee grinder. The next time I used my pounding mallet to crush the spices. I am not sure if the cinnamon sticks were crushed too large but the Chai came out excellent. The spices were much more prominent like I remember from the Indian restaurant. I am going to purchase a mortar and pestle for better control. From my experience grinding the spices reduces their potency. I will not do that again!

If you enjoy trying different teas, another Indian inspired tea is my Learning to Make Ginger Honey Tea With a Splash of Lemon!

Chai Spices crushed with a mallot

Below is my starting recipe as I am sure it will evolve over time. I have not used ginger or nutmeg so there are new opportunities! Plus the cardamom pods are what I can locate at the grocery store. My research shows there are green cardamom pods so I need to order them from the spice store. Once I receive them my cardamom pods ratio may change.

3 Cinnamon Sticks or 11 grams
15 Cardamom Pods
12 Whole Cloves
8 Whole Peppers

Chai Spices in their bottles

Heat a heavy pan. Place cinnamon sticks in hot pan. Then add your other spices. Be careful that you do not burn them. I tend to roast my cinnamon sticks separately from the smaller spices. You will know they are ready based upon the aroma. Place baked spices into a vessel to grind them to a desire texture.

Chai Spices in a pan roasting

For 2 mugs of Chai or 4 small servings I use the following recipe.

3 tsp. Loose Black Tea
1 1/2 cups Water
1 1/2 cups Milk
2 tbsp. Prepared Spices (about 15 grams)
Sweetener, optional

Chai Loose Tea Preparation

Boil water in a heavy pan. Add loose tea and prepared spices and boil for about 5-minutes. In Peri’s blog she discusses how you know your tea by its color. And as a tea lover I do agree with that statement. So I look for a rich color before I add any milk because if the color is weak I am not going to be happy with the final Chai. It is important to use a good quality tea leaves with medium body. A weak tea will be taken over by the spices and you want a nice blend of flavors. If you do a taste test at this point it should be very strong with spices and tea. But do not be concerned.

Chai tea and spices boiling

After you are happy with the color, add the milk and bring it back to a boil being careful to not burn the milk or let the milk boil over the pan.

Chai add milk to boil

Prepare a tea pot by pouring hot water into the pot to rinse it and heat it for the hot Chai. Before you can drink it you will need to strain the loose tea and prepared spices using a cheesecloth. You cannot use a regular tea strainer because the prepared spices can seep through into your tea pot.

Chai straining into tea pot

Once you have strained your Chai pour it into prepared mugs. I like to prepare the mugs by rinsing with hot water before pouring the Chai.

Chai Tea Pot and Mugs

It is up to you if you want to add sweetener when making the Chai or allow each person to add his or her own sweetener. I have experimented with different milks from light cream, half and half, 2 percent and skim milk. Light cream or half and half are the best because they make a creamier Chai. However for sake of calories I will use 2 percent milk since we might want a cup every night. Skim milk can be used but be prepared for a thinner less flavorful Chai.

Enjoy your Indian Chai and the wonderful relaxing and calming affect.

If you like this recipe, check out:
Learning to Make Ginger Honey Tea With a Splash of Lemon!