I admit it - I have a “little” addiction to chai. Ok, maybe not so little as I usually brew a new pot every other day, and on some weeks - every day.
Living a mile from Philz Coffee, I previously had an addiction to the Mint Mojito, Tesora and yes, also their Spicy Chai. I must say however that I am not a fan of the long wait time standing in line during peak times for a cup of brew that I can just as easily make at home.
Some would say that making fresh chai at home requires more work, however, once you find your rhythm and establish your favorite mix of spices, making chai is as easy as pie.
This recipe is an adaptation between the chai recipe in Kate O'Donnell's book The Every Day Ayurveda Cookbook and a recipe that I utilized during my chai wallah days. I used to scour the web for different recipes, however one will find that there are so many out there to choose from, and for good reason as there are a variety of ways to making chai.
I’ve been telling my friends that I have probably made chai about 30 different ways since 2014. How is that even possible one would ask - but as you start brewing your own pot and begin experimenting with quantities, spices, sugars, different types of milk, milk to chai base ratios, timing, etc., - you’ll see that this is quite possible. One thing I'd like to try someday, is to roast the fennel seeds before adding them to the pot.
The recipe below is one that I love but, most importantly, my family also loves to drink. I used to thirst for a really SPICY brew (like the more ginger the better, oh throw in a handful of black pepper why don't you), however I quickly realized that part of my joy in making chai is sitting down with my daughter and enjoying a cup with her in the morning.
Before we dive into it - here are the most vital differences I’ve found in making a balanced brew between sweet and spicy.
Ginger - Though you may use ginger powder in a pinch, I always recommend using fresh ginger. The quantity of ginger depends on how spicy you like it, and if you also like the taste. I usually use about 1.5” - 2” piece for each pot. Also, I highly recommend using a microplane grater to hand grate your ginger. Also very handy for grating whole nutmeg!
Sugar - I’ve used everything from regular cane sugar, date sugar and jaggery. However, my ALL TIME favorite is coconut sugar. I had no idea that this would really up the chai game until I tried it. Of course, if you don’t like coconut for some reason you can try a different sweetener.
Tea - A staple of most Indian house holds is Brooke Bond Label tea. Again, I’ve experimented with other types of tea, but this one hands down lends the smoothest flavor.
Tea timing- To add tea to the pot before adding milk or after milk? One day I decided to follow Kate’s recipe and add the tea AFTER adding the milk. This by far has been the best option for me, as the chai comes out super smooth when tea is added AFTERmilk. When tea is added before, I found it to be more bitter and has a different taste. Try it both ways to compare which you prefer.
Strainers - When I used to make a large quantity of chai, I would pour my unstrained chai through a nut milk bag or regular strainer. With a smaller quantity as the recipe below, I have found the best strainer for smooth chai (meaning no gritty bits), is the Rösle fine mesh tea strainer. It is a bit pricey - one can find different sizes and prices on Amazon - but even if you make chai only once a week, the cost savings to purchasing a cup of chai elsewhere adds up.
Spice Box - Last but not least. A spice box is super handy for chai! I store larger, bulk quantities of spices in mason jars in the pantry, however since making chai every day, a spice box specifically for chai spices also helps create a smooth process.
And finally the recipe! I've grouped the ingredients in the order that I add them to the pot. The first group of 5 spices I boil for 10 minutes or longer, the second for 3-5 minutes and the last group 7-8 minutes.
4 cups of water (+ 1/2 cup extra if needed due to boiling out)
1.5” - 2” fresh ginger root grated
1/2 tsp cinnamon (be generous if you like cinnamon)
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
5-6 black peppercorns ground
3 -4 cloves whole
5 cardamom pods ground
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 Cup of Milk (I use whole milk but you can substitute with 2%, soy or almond milk. With substitutions you may need to add a little extra to make it more creamy)
2 Tbsp Coconut Sugar
1.5 -2 Tbsp Black Tea
1.5 Tbsp Grated Nutmeg
Grate 1/3 whole nutmeg or 1/2 Tbsp equivalent. Set aside for later. (You can use more or less depending on how spicy you like your chai).
Pour 4 cups of water into pot. Bring to a boil.
While waiting for water to boil, grate the ginger and ground the black peppercorns.
Add ginger, black peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves and fennel seeds to pot. Medium boil for 10 minutes or longer.
While boiling the spices, ground 5 pods of cardamom.
If too much water has boiled out, add a bit more water to pot. After 10 minutes, add ground cardamom and coriander powder. Boil for 3-5 minutes
Here’s the part where you need to stick around and watch your chai.
Add 1 cup of milk and bring to an almost boil. Then add the coconut sugar and stir to mix in. When the milk starts boiling a bit more add the black tea and stir in. Brew for 7 minutes. Stir occasionally. Be careful to not let the milk boil over as this can happen quickly! About halfway through add the grated nutmeg.
Let the pot cool for a few minutes before pouring through a strainer into tea pot.
Pour a cup, sit, sip and enjoy!