There are many drinks consumed in India, but nothing quite as iconic as chai. Whether sipped during a business meeting, slurped after a Gurdwara or Devasthana (place of worship) service, or swigged after dinner with family and friends, chai is a way of life.
The fascination with chai has gained ground worldwide, and more and more people are becoming addicted to that combination of beautifully warm and fragrant spices found only in this hot beverage. We introduce a very authentic representation of chai. Something you would undoubtedly enjoy on the subcontinent. No Starbucks equivalents here!
We use a traditional blend of fennel seeds, star anise buds, green cardamom, cinnamon sticks, and cloves. Its warm embrace will leave you comforted, calm, and oh-so satisfied.
Table of Contents
What Is Chai?
Chai tea is a hot beverage, native to India, prepared with black tea leaves and spices. It became popular on the subcontinent following British colonization. The English preparation of black tea with milk and sugar was adopted by the Indians, who infused it with a unique blend of spices.
The term “chai” literally translates to “tea” in Hindi. So when one says “chai tea,” one is saying “tea, tea.” Beware, stares and giggles will ensue if you are among an Indian community and they overhear you ordering “chai tea.”
The standard ratio of water to milk is 2:1. However, when the spices are boiled in water, the water will reduce by half. Accordingly, we recommend the following water to milk ratio for chai:
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup milk
- Fennel Seeds
- Green Cardamom Pods
- Cinnamon Sticks
Types of Tea
You may use any strong, rich black tea. We prefer Assam, from Assam, India, which is full-bodied and malty in taste. However, any black tea will work just fine for this recipe. Here are some alternatives:
- English Breakfast
Traditionally, Punjabi chai is sweetened with jaggery or “gur.” Jaggery is golden or brown in color and it is made from sugar cane juice, and date or palm sap. The molasses and crystals are not separated so it appears clumped.
Although the addition of jaggery will make a very traditional cup of chai, it is not necessary. If you don’t have a Punjabi food store nearby, cane sugar is an acceptable alternative. To learn more about the difference between sugar and jaggery, visit this article.
You may also use honey, but I would not recommend maple syrup as it will add a very untraditional layer of flavor to the chai.
Whole cow’s milk is the most common option for this recipe. However, we recommend a creamier milk alternative such as oat or cashew milk for those that may be lactose intolerant.
What to Munch On with Chai Tea
Every cup of tea requires an accompaniment of something sweet or savory! Here are some tasty options to pair with your cup of chai:
How to Make More than Two Servings
If you wish to make more than two servings of tea, don’t double or triple the number of spices. Instead, boil the same amount of spices twice or thrice as long, in a larger amount of water, to allow the flavors to become more pronounced.
Purge Your Fridge
1. Crush and Boil Spices in Water
- Lightly crush green cardamom pods with a mortar and pestle. Ensure the pods are broken open.
- Combine water, cloves, star anise buds, broken cardamom pods and seeds, fennel seeds, and cinnamon sticks into a saucepan on the stovetop at high heat.
- Boil for 10 minutes.
2. Add the Tea Bags and Milk
- Add tea bags, milk, and sugar to the saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high.
- Simmer for 5 minutes.
- Pour the tea into teacups using a fine sieve.
- Serve and enjoy.