Discover the rich and spicy goodness of masala chai, the perfect blend of black tea, aromatic spices, and milk, with this comprehensive guide. Indian chai is a delightful beverage that can invigorate your mind and soothe your senses with its robust, sweet, and mildly spiced flavor.
Masala chai, translating to "spiced tea" in Hindi, is a beloved Indian beverage renowned for its robust flavor. This aromatic and soothing drink is a daily ritual in India. Whether accompanying breakfast or evening snacks, masala chai has earned a global following due to its unique blend of tea and spices.
Authentic masala chai tea is made with black tea (Assam tea) and whole spices. It is popular in the US as a chai tea latte (which actually means tea tea latte!) Also called chaa or chaha, it is widely sold at roadside tea stalls, and the tea tastes different in each tea stall. The "chaiwallahs" (street vendors) carefully select their own blend of spices and brands of tea they use.
Why you will love this recipe?
- It's authentic. This recipe is based on traditional Indian masala chai recipes and uses basic aromatic spices.
- It's flavorful. The spices used in this recipe give the chai a complex and delicious flavor profile.
- It's comforting. A hot cup of masala chai is perfect for warming up on a cold day or soothing the soul.
Milk: Whole milk works best; however, you can use skim milk too.
Black tea: Assam tea is the most common variety. There are several brands of Indian tea that are easily available in any Indian grocery store or online store. My preferred brands are Tata Tea and Taj Mahal.
Spices: The spices I use are green cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, clove, fennel seeds, and black peppercorns. I also use fresh ginger.
Sweetener: Sugar is the most common sweetener used. I like to use raw sugar in my tea. You can also use jaggery, white sugar, brown sugar, or maple syrup.
Step 1: In a mortar pestle, add fresh ginger root and spices (cinnamon, green cardamoms, clove, fennel seeds, and black pepper). Crush them lightly to make the spice mixture (images 1 and 2).
Step 2: Boil water in a saucepan. Add the crushed spices and bring them to a boil. Let it simmer for 5 minutes on medium-high heat (images 3 and 4).
Step 3: Add sugar and black tea leaves. Let the tea steep for 4-5 minutes on low heat (images 5 and 6).
Step 4: Add milk and bring it to a boil. Simmer for 4-5 minutes on medium heat (images 7 and 8). Keep an eye on it and simmer until it reaches your desired color.
Step 5: Turn off the heat. Strain the tea by passing it through a sieve or tea strainer (images 9 and 10).
The perfect cup of Indian masala chai is ready to be served.
Pulling the masala chai / Aerating the tea
"Pulling" the masala chai is a common technique to aerate the tea and is employed by chaiwallahs in India. This process effectively breaks down the layer of milk fat that forms on the surface after brewing.
To pull the tea, pour it into a saucepan, mug, or jug with a handle, and then pour it back into the pot in a slow stream from a height of one to two feet. Repeat this pouring process 5-6 times until a foamy head forms on the top.
Alternatively, you can use a ladle to pull the tea while it's still in the saucepan. Many chai wallahs perform this step before straining the tea, but I prefer to strain the tea first to preserve the frothy head that develops during pulling.
Use whole spices that are crushed lightly for best results. The ground spices will not strain fully. Whole spice blends can be strained easily, and they also give a perfectly balanced flavor to the tea.
Adjust the chai spices as per your liking. Similarly, adjust the water-to-milk ratio too. Some like to make their tea with a 1:1 ratio, and some even make it with just milk (without adding any water). My preferred ratio is 2:1 (2 cups of water for every cup of milk).
Use Indian brands of black loose leaf tea and not tea bags. All Indian stores sell many brands of loose Assam tea, which is perfect for masala chai.
Skip the spices and use just ginger to make adrak chai (ginger tea). If you have access to Tulasi (holy basil), crush and add a few leaves along with other spices.
To make vegan chai, replace regular milk with plant-based milk. Oat milk, coconut milk, soy milk, and almond milk work well. It is important not to boil the tea after adding plant-based milk, as the tea may curdle. Steep the tea first in water and then add the vegan milk. Turn off the heat, cover it, and let the vegan masala chai steep for a few more minutes.
What to serve with masala chai?
Serve this delicious drink with these snacks and breakfast foods.
Want to enjoy chai in a jiffy? Make and store some chai concentrate and brew a cup of delicious chai latte in less than 2 minutes.
Click here to make authentic filter coffee or pumpkin chai latte. If you are looking for caffeine-free beverages, try badam milk and golden milk latte. Also, check out this herbal infusion recipe to see how to make calendula tea.
I use cinnamon, cardamom, clove, black pepper, and fennel seeds. There is no specific list of spices used. The use of spices depends on your personal preference and varies in all Indian homes. Other aromatic spices and herbs like star anise, holy basil, and rose petals are also commonly used.
Using a lot of tea leaves or simmering it for too long can make the tea bitter.
It may curdle if you do not boil fresh/root ginger in water before adding the milk. Fresh or root ginger is one of the most common ingredients used and it is really important to boil it in water first to remove the enzymes. Add milk only after this step.
Indian tea is traditionally made using black tea leaves. These tea leaves are readily available from various well-known brands at Indian grocery stores, supermarkets, and online platforms such as Amazon. You may also discover them at local farmer's markets or specialty tea shops.
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Masala Chai (Authentic Indian Spiced Tea)
- In a mortar pestle, add ginger and spices (cinnamon, cardamom, clove, fennel seeds, and black pepper). Crush them lightly and set them aside.
- Boil water in a saucepan. Add the crushed spice mix. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add sugar and tea powder. Let the tea steep for 4-5 minutes. Do not simmer for a long time as this could make the tea bitter.
- Add milk and bring to boil. Simmer for 4-5 minutes, or until it reaches the desired color.
- Strain the tea by passing it through a sieve.
- Pull the tea by pouring it back and forth in a slow stream (see the tips section above).
- Serve hot.