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I’m back! Did you miss me? I was all sickly and working a bunch all last week, and therefore far too lazy to even clean my house, let alone post blogs. But no worries, I have a treat.

Who doesn’t love chai tea? Hint: it is not me who does not love chai tea. I had never enjoyed this delicacy until I had a meal card in college with a chai tea machine in the food court. And it was love.

Over the summer this supply dried up, so I went to Campus Convenience (aka Campco) and inquired as to whether one might find chai tea somewhere in the store. The new owner, who was incidentally Indian, directed me to a shelf with some black tea on it. “No no, like . . . chai . . . it’s got milk and honey in it?”

“But, this is chai”

“Um, well, what I’m looking for comes in a carton?”

“Chai is an Indian word that means ‘tea.'”


And thus ended one of many cultural lessons that naturally befall a white middle-class suburban girl from New Hampshire sooner or later.

And look! Just five years later, here I am, so culturally learned that I not only eat Pho on a regular basis, but am making my own chai tea. There are dozens of recipes out there, so I kind of mashed them all up to create an optimal mix of things. Fortunately, my experiments in Pho leave me with pretty much all the ingredients on hand!

For one, cardamom pods.

Cardamom pods!

Did you know the best way to get cardamom flavouring is to smash open the pods? It’s true! I read it on the Internet. I guess outside of the pods, the seeds don’t retain their flavour very well.

The pod reveals all.

I assembled the other spices, shying not away from traditionally savoury spices such as fennel and black peppercorns.

These are our spices!

Float your tea bags atop some milk. Many folks like the creaminess of whole milk. I used 1% because the cooking of it thickens it quite a bit, and more importantly, I’m totally on a diet.


Then you stir continuously while it comes to a boil. Then you simmer. And then you simmer some more. In fact, the longer you simmer, the spicier it becomes. Perhaps less cardamom is better if you’re planning on spicing it to the max.

The phases of brewing this business.

Strain. I doubly strained this because cheesecloth is a pain in the ass sometimes and also, this strainer is not nearly stringent enough to get those itty bitty tea leaves that burst out of those cheap tea bags.


After some chilling, I iced that business and enjoyed it with some fine biscuits I found at the Indian store while in search of bulk black peppercorns.

Mmmm . . . chai tea!

And that’s that! I made a half gallon of tea for sharing, but the recipe makes a quart.

Chai Tea

2 tsp fresh ginger, smashed via mortar and pestle or otherwise minced
4 bags of black tea
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp fennel seeds
4 whole cloves
8 black peppercorns
4 cardamom seeds
1/4 cup honey
1 quart of milk (your choice of fat content–that’s 4 cups)

Pour milk, spices and honey into a saucepan, float the tea bags on top, and let come to a boil while stirring continuously. Reduce to a simmer (continue to stir) and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Simmer for longer for a stronger flavour. Turn off heat, let sit a few minutes. The milk will get a skin on top of it; skim and discard. Strain through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth if you have it. Serve hot, or chill and serve with ice. And delicious sunshine biscuits

  1. Tami Said,

    MMM! Your tea looks fantastic! I don’t think that I have the patience to do all of that. lol!

  2. Amanda Said,

    Isn’t it weird! I had dhal for dinner and some chai to go with it! Hee – I might make some of your chai recipe tomorrow and have it with my leftover dhal.

  3. Alex Rushmer Said,

    Great post.

  4. ila Said,

    o gawd… that looks awesome. i brew chai at home too, but i grind everything coursely and put it in one of those vietnamese espresso drippers. then I thin it with milk. MMMMM.

  5. Lo Said,

    I love chai. Been finding that if I brew some with a bit of vanilla soy milk, it makes a great dessert on a cold fall evening.

    This recipe looks lovely.

  6. ana dane Said,

    looks delicious, and perfect for a cold cold day (like it is here this morning).

    try it with a pinch or two of cayenne pepper next time- it adds a really nice kick.

  7. melissa Said,

    That is awesome!

    Now if we can just get you using proper loose-leaf tea rather than that nasty bagged crap (which containes all the little bits of leftover tea and tea dust rather than REAL tea)…your world will be officially rocked. ^_^

  8. aleta meadowlark Said,

    Tami – it’s not so bad . . . worse if you have to take pictures, though!

    Amanda – I swear, we are food-aligned . . . let me know how my chai compares to yours. =)

    Alex – thanks!

    ila – don’t go tempting me with more kitchen devices . . . I have simply too many already!

    lo – I love soy milk!

    ana – AWESOME IDEA. Oh man, I’m so doing that, thank you!

    melissa – I know, I know, it’s just what I had on hand . . . the shame.

  9. Patrick Said,

    I love your amazing white backgrounds.

  10. Jessica@Foodmayhem Said,

    I was just learning all about chai from two Indian friends. The pics are fabulous!

  11. Esi Said,

    Wow! This is amazing. I tagged you for an award on my site 🙂 Hope you’re feeling better!

  12. Lainie Petersen Said,

    Wow. What a gorgeously photographed recipe/article.

    The chai looks delicious, too!

  13. tigerfish Said,

    Your Chai Tea is so patiently made/brewed!

    Happy New Year!

  14. Kelsey Said,

    That looks (and sounds) tasty! I will have to try it. I’ve been living in Korea for 9 months and am back stateside for a month, and am loving having access to spices other than chili powder again.

    Also, do you mind if I add you to my blogroll? I love your blog, and its name is also quite awesome.

    Living Life Frame by Frame

  15. oogikuzirkus Said,

    I love chai in Singapore too. We have teh indian version as well and Malay version too. Malay is call Teh. Nice too. Yummmm… but making them at home. Its so Fun:) Sometime we pour the milk tea, from one cup to another, which will form bubbles on top. Some how it taste even nicer. Heehe

  16. Amy Said,

    I made this with soy milk to suit my lactose-intolerant sensibilities and it turned out well (plus I didn’t have to skim off any milk skin). I think next time I might add more ginger and leave out the peppercorns… I guess I’ve grown too used to the deathly sweet Starbucks-style confection, but the savory taste just didn’t work for me. Great recipe, though (and great pics, per usual)!

  17. Dawn Said,

    if I boil this in water will it be concentrated enough to add milk later and have it at regular old Coffeeshop consistency?
    I suppose that is something like Starbucks-consistency but tasting much better like small-family-owned-shop.

  18. Brook Said,

    I noticed you are using the big black cardamom pods instead of the smaller green ones. I have noticed that the black cardamom has a slightly smoked scent to it, reminiscint of tobacco. i have used it in other recipes calling for cardamom and after making kheer using it, I thought i did something wrong. i have since stocked up on the smaller green pods and I enjoy that flavor a lot more. I have to be honest though, I haven’t even used the black pods in chai. I was actually on the brink of tossing them since I haven’t used them in two years (they are in a well sealed jar in a good place), so maybe i will give them one more honest shot before tossing them.

  19. Prudy Said,

    Made this last night. Quite yum. I like spicy chai, I let it simmer at least 20 minutes. Wondering if I can add extra spices to make at the spice level I like. It is good though.

  20. Sophia Said,

    I love chai, will try this soon. I think the name is Chai Masala, “chai” meaning “tea” as you wrote, and “masala” standing for “spice mix” as in the movie “Mississippi Masala”.

  21. Karen Said,

    I love everything on this site!! My kind of nomnoms

  22. Beth Said,

    Mmm, I love Chai. Although, now I know that when I say ‘chai tea’, I’m really saying ‘tea tea.’ How silly. I love the arrangement of the spices in the third picture.

  23. well... Said,

    Clearly not cultured enough to learn to not say “chai tea, chai tea” all the time. No. Just chai. Saying “tea tea” does not make a difference.

  24. Politely Said,

    Cultural differences bring about these odd manipulations of languages. Here in America, we already know of black tea, we call it tea and if you ask for “tea” this is what you get. Most of us, including me, until I read this post, thought Chai meant the use of the spices in the tea that make it wonderfully different than just “black tea”. I assumed there wasn’t a corner on this planet where “plain black tea” isn’t being drank on a regular basis. When the word Chai was imported into this country it was attached to a product that was wholely familar to us but at the same time this new substance was wholely unfamilar. It’s a natural reaction to attached the new word to the new discovery despite it causing a “cultural double speak” if you will.

    If we want a spiced tea latte type drink we ask for a chai tea. Saying chai, when it simply means tea should get us a black tea, or a question. What kind? To my knowledge there are hundreds of kinds of tea when you break down strains of the 2 major types, black and green. More if you wan to include white and red, I personally, think they are more of a “tea spin-off”. If chai means “tea” which kind? there’s 500.

    Perhaps we, as Americans didn’t realize there was a culture out there that was so simplistic as to only have 1 option when you ask for “tea”.

    Thanks, well. For your insight into the cultureless Americans silly repeating of the word tea when we ask for a chai tea. I shall do better to learn other languages so I don’t offend delicate ego’s from around the world.

  25. Politely Said,

    BTW, I love your photos, they are beautiful, and I am trying this recipe 🙂 except the fennel…… I can’t do fennel!

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