Authentic Chai (Tea)

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chai tea in tea cups

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

chai tea ingredients


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.”

green cardamom pods in mortar


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

Traditional Spices

  • Fennel Seeds
  • Green Cardamom Pods
  • Cinnamon Sticks
  • Cloves
chai spices boiling in pot

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:

  • Ceylon
  • Darjeeling
  • English Breakfast
assam tea bags


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.

adding sugar to chai tea in pot

Milk Alternatives

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.

chai tea cooking in pot

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.

chai tea in cups

Purge Your Fridge

You just finished tossing back our chai, and you are left with some extra milk. Here are some tasty ways to rid your fridge of the leftover ingredients:

chai tea in tea cups
Authentic "Chai" Tea
Nothing is quite as satisfying as a hot cup of authentic chai tea made with the rich, bold flavors of Assam black tea, fennel seeds, star anise, green cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Drinks
Cuisine Indian
Servings 2
Calories 94 kcal



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.


Calories: 94kcalCarbohydrates: 11gProtein: 4gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 12mgSodium: 76mgPotassium: 162mgSugar: 11gVitamin A: 198IUCalcium: 152mgIron: 1mg
Keyword authentic, Easy, Quick, spicy, sweet
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About Savory Suitcase
Hello, I’m Kristina, Founder and Head Blogger of Savory Suitcase… the one-stop-shop for the international foodie. 

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6 Responses

  1. Hi Kristina,

    This is a really well written and thoughtful article, and a pleasure to read.

    Just one request – please don’t propagate the use of the term “chai tea”, it’s an incorrect Westernism and very grating for Indians to read as it translates to tea-tea.

    As I’m sure you’re already aware given your knowledge around this topic, chai is the Hindi term for tea. In Punjabi it’s cha. A better way to refer to it to assist your English-speaking readers would be “chai (tea)”.

    Kind regards

    1. Thank you Jaya! Your feedback is greatly appreciated. I made sure to include that distinction in “What Is Chai?” section , but I will take your suggestion and amend the title to reflect this.

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Hello, I’m Kristina, Founder and Head Blogger of Savory Suitcase… the one-stop-shop for the international foodie.


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