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!


    1. Thank you. It is a delicious Chai that is warm with a wonderful spicy aroma. I always feel so relaxed after having a cup. I do believe it helps me sleep. Sometimes I make it with decaf loose black tea if it is close to bed time. It is good but not as flavorful as the regular loose black tea. But still good. I hope you enjoy it.

    1. I fell in love with this Chai after having it only once. As I understand different families in India will have their own version of spices. So you may receive many different versions of Indian Chai recipes. You can experiment until you find a version you like. I hope you do get to try it!

  1. Wow Bernice, I love your Chai spice blend, cardamom (my favorite dominant flavor!) gives that warmth to Chai! Every Indian home has a blend of their own, guess you’ve realized that by now! ha ha…

    And thanks for the wonderful comments on our ‘Chai’ chats, I am happy Greg and you have found your special Chai equation, which you will tweak and perfect over time…Happy Chai drinking!

    1. Thanks Peri! I just ordered green cardamom since I do not know if that will be different than what I can purchase in the supermarket. I also order some whole nutmeg. Might try adding just a bit as I love nutmeg. Our “Chai” chats definitely helped me – thanks again! I look forward to seeing what new recipes you add to your blog that I can try!

  2. Wow, I must try this! I do like spiced teas, as well as rather mild and pure teas such as Korean barley tea (Poree cha or Bori Cha; Korean spelling: 보리 차).

    On another note, thank you for your comment earlier. My apologies, but I had to delete the post, as there was a but with that wordpress theme. I am just setting up this food website and am therefore still in the process of figuring out how wordpress all works. Thanks again for stopping by 🙂

    1. Not a problem – we are all learning about this blogging stuff. Let me know when you are up and running again. Ironically, we just finished a cup of Indian Chai. Since I wrote the posting I now add the spices and loose tea to the water before it starts to boil. I like to get even more flavor from the tea and spices. I am using half and half as my milk and it is a very nice warm beverage. I will have to try the Korean barley tea – as I adore teas!

    1. I love Indian Chai! It so wonderful providing a warming affect. I also like my Ginger & Honey tea because it is nice on a cold winter night! Enjoy. Bernice

  3. That would be perfect because it is so cold here! We had snow two days ago. Thanks for sharing these. I once made a similar one from a recipe online, but yours has more steps and looks like the real thing! Just what I need today…feeling a little run down due to the cold weather.

    1. I have been having my ginger & honey tea almost every night. Ginger is suppose to be good for your immune system and I am using local honey which might be good for allergies. I figure it can’t hurt and it is nice on a cold night. I hope you enjoy it! Bernice

  4. I usually don’t use milk in my tea or coffee…but chai tea is the exception. My sister brought me chai tea from India and it was delicious! I believe that it had a bit of black pepper and bay leaves in the mix as well. Thank you for sharing your recipe!

    1. The same with me. I do not use milk in my tea or coffee. So I was a bit hesitant at first when I tried Indian Chai at an Indian restaurant. But I fell in love with it immediately! It took me awhile to get to this recipe because there is not a standard recipe for Indian Chai. Each family has their own spin on the recipe. I use bay leaves in my ginger & honey tea which has more heat and tang this this chai.

    1. It is a wonderful tea – plus you can change the ingredients to what you might enjoy. I experimented for awhile until I got the combination that we enjoy. It is a nice warm tea on a cold winter day – very soothing. I am sure you could also drink it cold in the summer.

  5. Bernice, I have wanted to try this ever since I saw it on your blog. I finally got around to getting the spices I needed, and I made it for the first time yesterday. You’re right, it is wonderfully relaxing and calming. I can’t wait to have it again!

    1. Thank you Kristah for letting me know! I am so happy you enjoyed the Chai. It is cold, rainy and damp here tonight. So I made us a nice cup of chai. Sometimes I boil the spices and tea longer for a stronger chai – or add more spices. At night I use a decaf loose tea and during the day a regular loose tea.

  6. I really want to try this! But it’s so foreign to me that I’m intimidated…..out of my elements.
    Suppose it’s better late thn never????
    Anyway, your post is encouraging! It’s clear with good photos. It also means I have to buy all of it. Until these type spices & seasonings are in my pantry. Luckily, my grown childrenlove it.
    *bookmarked site

    1. This is a wonderful chai! Let me know if you have any questions or if anything is unclear once you try to make it. We just adore it. Plus it was out of my element too. I was not sure where to start so I did a lot of research. My tip is to lightly roast the spices if you have never done that before. You do not want to burn them. So heat a heavy pan and maybe roast for a minute or so. I like to stir mine and keep an eye on them. I use a mortar and pestle to crush my spices as that releases their wonderful flavor! The milk or half-and-half makes it a special treat. I like to have it after dinner and closer to bed. I find it relaxes me. Best wishes with the Chai! Bernice

  7. Hello don’t let on that I am in here I slipped in through the back door…… you should not leave it open with that fabulous smell pervading the area!! I am not a brilliant cook ( my husband is , but then he does not write poetry!) so I hope you don’t mind if I hang around occasionally as it is all so beautiful and you never know I might just surprise you all and learn !! xxxxxx

    1. Greetings! I hope you can pick up a recipe or two from my blog. There are quite a few that are simple but yet packed with flavor! I do not write poetry either – not that creative. Let me know if you have any questions and feel free to hang out as much as you like. Glad to have you aboard! 🙂

    1. I can imagine that was a great cup of Chai! I had a great Chai at the Indian restaurant and I think they had more spices in there version. I need to go back and try it again. Most likely I am too conservative on the spices or how long I boil the chai.

      1. Thanks. Since I wrote that posting I did get a mortar and pestle – so much easier. I think one day I will update those photos so they are more current.

      2. Just write a new post and call it: Chai Update and link back to this post somewhere in the update. 🙂 That way you keep this post, and get to write a new one as well 🙂

      3. That is a good idea. Last year I posted a few recipes using my slow cooker and now I am converting them to the stove top so I will do the same thing with the Chai. Great idea! Thanks. 🙂 I use to take my stove top recipes to convert them to the slow cooker – now I am going back to the stove top. 🙂

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