Masala Chai Recipes

Monday, Nov 05, 2007

Last week, I talked about masala chai’s history, culture, and ingredients. This week, it’s time to bring on the recipes. First, learn the basics of how to prepare masala chai. Then, try out some of my masala chai recipes. Enjoy!

UPDATE: I’ve collected a number of masala chai recipes and reviews and created a masala chai photo tutorial on About.com. Check them out!

How to Make Masala Chai



I suggest picking a preparation method before you start. The common ways to prepare hot masala chai are as follows:

Boil it all together for up to 15 minutes. Strain and serve in prewarmed teacups. (This makes a very strong, thick, creamy masala chai. It is NOT recommended for green tea variations, as green tea will get too bitter when brewed this way.)

Boil the spices and sugar with milk and water 5-10 minutes and then add the tea and continue to boil for about 2 minutes. Strain and serve in prewarmed teacups.

Boil the spices with water (optional: add milk now) for about 5-10 minutes, add the sugar (optional: add milk now), remove the mixture from heat, and then add the tealeaves to steep for 3-10 minutes. Strain and serve in prewarmed teacups (optional: add milk now). Personally, I usually boil for 7 minutes and steep for 4, adding the milk at the second or last chance.

Steep the spices and tea in a mixture of hot milk and hot water for 3-10 minutes. Strain and serve in prewarmed teacups.

Steep the spices and tea (at up to double strength, so the milk doesn’t dilute the flavor later) in hot water for 3-10 minutes and then add the milk and sugar. Strain and serve in prewarmed teacups.

When I was in India, there was a bitter argument in the newspaper over whether tea should be “brewed” (by which they meant “boiled”) or steeped. Most masala-chai makers in India boil their tea for a fuller flavor, because boiling the spices is key to releasing their full flavor. However, I often find that the tea gets too bitter when the leaves are also boiled. Street chai in India balances this astringency by adding loads of milk and sugar. For everyday drinking, I prefer less sweetness and dairy, so I brew the spices and steep the tea.

Some people in the West add sweetener at the very end, but it doesn’t make much difference when you add it if it’s hot. The only advantage of adding it first is that it is sure to dissolve fully (which may matter if you’re adding a huge amount of sugar) and the only advantage to adding it at the end is that each person can determine how much/what kind of sweetener they want.

As for when to add the milk, it’s a matter of taste. If you want a thicker, creamier tea, add the milk at the onset. Otherwise, add it later. Remember that adding milk after brewing and/or steeping will result in a weak tea unless you brew it at extra strength.

For cold masala chai, you can make it with any of the above methods, then blend with ice, chill and serve with ice, or chill and blend with ice cream. It also makes great popsicles if you add a bit more sugar. (Some of the sweetness is lost in the freezing.)

Once you’ve selected your preparation method, it’s all a matter of proportions. Stronger teas are best with stronger spices and more milk/sugar, while milder teas are best kept milder. The spices require more sweetener than you’d imagine to bring out the full flavor of the spices — recipes often call for more than a tablespoon of sugar per cup of tea. Ratios of milk to water range from 1:6 all the way to 3:2. I suggest starting with a 1:1 ratio as a starting point. If you want a creamy chai made with a dairy substitute, use a higher ratio of “milk” and boil the “milk” with the water so it thickens naturally as it brews.

Masala Chai Recipes



Below are some proportions I put together. Each one serves two to three people. Apply the above preparation methods and you have complete recipes. Feel free to tweak them to your own preferences of creaminess, sweetness, spiciness, and astringency. Just don’t forget to tell people where you got the recipe!

Basic Masala Chai

This is the most basic form of masala chai. Simple and delicious.

4 whole cloves
2 cardamom pods, crushed and lightly roasted
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
1 piece ginger, about the size of a small grape, peeled and chopped
1/8 teaspoon black peppercorns, ground

2 cups milk
2 cups water

2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons black tea (preferably Assam)



Thick and Strong Basic Masala Chai

For those who like a little kick in their chai, this recipe is sure to please. I love this one during cold weather.

8 whole cloves
8 cardamom pods, crushed and lightly roasted
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
1 piece ginger, about the size of a large grape, peeled and chopped

2 cups half and half (OR 1 cup cream and 1 cup milk)
2 cups water

6 teaspoons Turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons Assam tea



“Traditional” Masala Chai 1

Of course, “traditional” varies greatly with the region. This variation ups the ante on cardamom and ginger, and includes a hint of fennel. Use the first or second preparation method for the best “Indian flavor.”

6 whole cloves
8 green cardamom pods, crushed and lightly roasted
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
1 piece ginger, about the size of a large grape, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon white poppy seeds, roasted

3 cups milk
1 cup water

6 teaspoons Turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons Assam CTC tea

1/2 teaspoon green fennel, roasted, ground, and added in at the last minute



“Traditional” Masala Chai 2

This is a more savory variation that includes black pepper, bay leaves, and fennel or star anise. Like the first "traditional" recipe, this one has a more “Indian flavor.”

6 whole cloves 4 green cardamom pods, crushed and lightly roasted
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
1 piece ginger, about the size of a grape, peeled and chopped
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorn, ground
2 bay leaves

2 cups half and half (OR 1 cup milk and 1 cup cream)
2 cups water

6 teaspoons Turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons Assam CTC tea

1 tablespoon fennel, roasted, ground, and added at the last minute (may be substituted with star anise and added in with the other spices)



“Traditional” Masala Chai 3

This variation contains the Ayurvedic digestive ajwain and has a more bitter, complex flavor than the other two “traditional” recipes. Not for the faint of heart!


3 pods cardamom
2 whole bay leaves
1 stick cinnamon, broken into pieces
1 piece ginger, about the size of a grape, peeled and chopped
1/4 teaspoon ajwain, roasted and ground
1/8 teaspoon cumin, roasted and ground
1/8 teaspoon black peppercorns, ground

2 cups milk
2 cups water

5 teaspoons Turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons Assam tea



Basic Green Chai

This mild spice mixture allows the flavor of gunpowder green tea to shine. Be sure to add the tealeaves toward the very end in order to avoid an overly bitter brew.

2 cardamom pods, crushed and lightly roasted
1 piece ginger, about the size of a grape, peeled and chopped

1 cup milk
3 cups water

6 teaspoons white sugar
2 tablespoons gunpowder green tea



Floral Green Chai

This variation on Basic Green Chai is sweet, floral, and mild. Be sure to add the tealeaves toward the very end in order to avoid an overly bitter brew.

3 cardamom pods, crushed and lightly roasted
1 piece ginger, about the size of a green pea, peeled and chopped

1 cup milk
3 cups water

2 teaspoons clover honey
2 tablespoons jasmine pearls green tea



Very American Chai

Strong, sugary, and indulgent — it’s the American way.

4 whole cloves
8 cardamom pods, crushed and lightly roasted
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger
1 teaspoon dark cocoa powder

2 cup milk^
2 cups water^

6 teaspoons white sugar^
2 tablespoons black tea

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, added at the last minute
1 teaspoon orange zest, added at the last minute

^Alternately, you can use 1 cup sweetened condensed milk, 3 cups water, and no sugar.



Frilly Tearoom Chai

Frilly Tearoom Chai is soft, feminine, floral, and a little exotic. Serve with a side of lace.

4 whole cloves
3 cardamom pods, crushed and lightly roasted
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
1 piece ginger, about the size of a small grape, peeled and chopped
1 inch vanilla bean, split and seeded
4 fresh, organic rose petals, plus 2 petals for each serving
3 strands saffron

2 cups milk
2 cups water

1 tablespoon orange blossom honey
2 tablespoons Nilgiri black tea

Garnish each glass with 2 additional fresh, organic rose petals.



Chic Tearoom Chai

In line with chic tearoom thinking, this recipe tastes great, sure… but in the end it’s all about the presentation.

4 whole cloves
3 cardamom pods, crushed and lightly roasted
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
1 inch vanilla bean, split and seeded
1 tablespoon crystallized ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice, ground, plus more for garnish
1/4 teaspoon white peppercorns, ground

2 cups almond milk
2 cups water

OR

1 cup milk
3 cups water

1 tablespoon Tupelo honey
2 tablespoons Darjeeling Autumnal Flush, plus more for garnish

1/4 nutmeg, ground and added at the last minute

Rim glass with honey and then dust with remaining allspice and top with tealeaves (optional). OR… Blend with 4 cups ice, dust with remaining allspice, top with tealeaves, and garnish with one cinnamon stick in each glass.



Fusion Tearoom Chai 1

This recipe incorporates ingredients from across Eurasia and even the southern US for a rich, spicy, and slightly smoky twist on masala chai.

4 whole cloves
3 cardamom pods, crushed and lightly roasted
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
1 piece ginger, about the size of a small grape, peeled and chopped
1/4 teaspoon white peppercorns, ground
3 strands saffron

2 cups almond milk
2 cups water

3 teaspoons Tupelo honey
2 tablespoons Keemun



Fusion Tearoom Chai 2

This recipe is sweet, savory, and spicy, with the richness of tamarind and the freshness of mint. It’s my Brooklynite-hipster friend Evan’s favorite.

2 cardamom pods, crushed and lightly roasted
1 tablespoon seedless ripe tamarind pulp
1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves
1/4 teaspoon cumin, roasted and ground
1/4 teaspoon green peppercorn, ground
dash sea salt

1 cup milk
3 cups water

4 teaspoons turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons Assam black tea



Garam Masala Chai (a.k.a. “Fusion Tearoom: The Beginning”)

This recipe is a mix of masala chai spices and garam masala spices. Garam masala is a spice mixture and a staple of Indian cooking. Like masala chai, each person’s recipe is a little different.

10 whole cloves
8 brown cardamom pods, crushed and lightly roasted
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, roasted and ground
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorn, ground
1/4 teaspoon white cumin seeds, roasted and ground

2 cups milk
2 cups water

1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons Assam tea



Smoky Licorice Chai (a.k.a. “Return to the Fusion Tearoom”)

Please note that I HATE licorice. Others have told me this recipe is good, but I can’t vouch for it personally. If you try it and have any suggestions for changes (or if you like it), please let me know.

2 cardamom pods, crushed and lightly roasted
1/2 stick cinnamon, broken into pieces
2 “stars” star anise
1 teaspoon fresh licorice root, or 1 teabag dried licorice root

2 cups sweetened condensed milk
2 cups water

2 tablespoons Lapsang Souchong tea

1 teaspoon roasted fennel, ground and added at the last minute



Hot and Spicy Chai (a.k.a. “The Fusion Tearoom Strikes Back”)

This masala chai is hot and spicy. I don’t have much else to say about it.

8 berries allspice, ground
2 cardamom pods, crushed and lightly roasted
2 whole cloves
1 piece ginger, about the size of a large grape, peeled and chopped
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, ground

2 cups milk
2 cups water

1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons Assam tea

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, added at the last minute
1/8 teaspoon ground mace, added at the last minute



Granola Chai

This recipe is a mixture of traditional masala chai, another traditional Indian beverage called “doodh badaam” (a sort of nutty milk drunk), and granola mix. It’s caffeine-free and, if you use turbinado sugar, it’s vegan.

2 cardamom pods, crushed and lightly roasted
2 sticks cinnamon, broken into pieces
2 whole cloves
1-inch piece of vanilla bead, split and seeded

3 cups rice milk
1 cup water

1 tablespoon clover honey or 5 teaspoons turbinado sugar
3 tablespoons rooibos, or 2 tablespoons Assam

1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup rolled oats
10 blanched, slivered almonds

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, added at the last minute

Prepare Granola Chai in the usual way with everything but the last four ingredients. Strain the spices and tealeaves. Then, add the raisins, oats, and almonds and keep at a low boil for five minutes. Add the nutmeg and serve.



Yummy Chai Milkshake

This cool chai variation makes a great desert and is perfect for summer.

10 whole cloves
6 cardamom pods, crushed and lightly roasted
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces, plus 1 whole cinnamon stick for each glass
2 pieces ginger, about the size of a large grape, peeled and chopped

1 cup water
1 cup milk

4 tablespoons Assam

6 teaspoons turbinado sugar
2 cups ice
OR
2 cups vanilla ice cream

Ground nutmeg for garnish

Brew spices with milk and water. Add tealeaves and brew for 5 minutes. Strain. Pour into a blender. Add sugar and ice or add ice cream. (If you use ice and sugar, you may want to add a 1-inch piece of vanilla bean or ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract for more flavor.) Blend. Serve with a garnish of cinnamon stick and ground nutmeg.

If you try any of these and have feedback, email me! If you use any of my recipes in your tearoom, let me know and I’ll link you here.