I took my mom to Starbucks once… it didn’t go well. We spent the morning shopping and by the afternoon, she was craving chai. I had two choices: go home so my mom could make her own chai OR convince mom to go to Starbucks so we could keep shopping. I (wrongly) chose the second option. We stood in line and I ordered my mom a “chai” with milk. After taking literally one sip, my mom handed me the tea and said she couldn’t drink it.
So. That said, forget about ordering a chai latte at Starbucks. It will never taste as good as what you can make in your kitchen in just a matter of minutes. To make authentic masala chai, all you need is some black tea, a few spices and your choice of milk.
I grew up watching my parents drink chai, two times a day – morning and afternoon. I’m Punjabi, so we actually call it “cha” and not chai, but same difference. Both words mean tea. Whenever we visit India, it seems like people are forever drinking cha. It’s so good. I love drinking a cup of tea while snacking on mathis (savory Indian biscuits).
Every Indian family has their own way of making cha. Below is the way that my mom taught me. There are two versions that we typically drink in my house – one has ginger and the other doesn’t. Ginger cha (see my notes) is my favorite – I like it strong with that spicy ginger flavor. Ginger can act as an anti-inflammatory and can help relax the GI tract. For me, that’s a bonus. I just love the flavor. There’s also a cinnamon cha (see notes below) that you can make. I like cinnamon in my coffee but it’s not my cup of tea.. to have it in my tea 😉
Regular cha is soo easy to make. After making it just once, you’ll probably wonder why you ever spent $5 on a chai latte. There are three spices that you’ll need for masala chai: cardamom, cloves, fennel seeds. Add these spices along with 1 cup of water to a teapot. Bring the water to a low boil and then add your black tea. When the color of the water changes to a nice deep brown, add your milk. Bring everything to a boil and then turn off heat, put the cover back on the teapot and then strain your chai and serve. Make sure you carefully watch your pot while boiling the tea to make sure the milk doesn’t boil over.
For my recipe, I use black tea bags, but you can certainly use loose black tea if you’d like. I think most people probably have easier access to the bags, which is why I’m using them here. As for the milk, I use almond milk (here’s my homemade almond milk recipe) or cashew milk. If you prefer whole milk, use that – just see my notes.
- Add cardamom, cloves, fennel seeds and water to teapot - bring to a low boil.
- Add tea bags to water and cover for 2 minutes.
- Remove cover and once the color of the water changes to your liking, add almond milk.
- Bring everything to a full boil, then turn off the heat (be sure to carefully watch the pot so the tea doesn't boil over!).
- Put your cover back on the pot, strain your chai and serve.
- Add sweetener to taste.
If you are using whole milk, then use 1 ½ c water and ½ c whole milk instead of the proportions listed above.