A belated chai recipe

Someone asked me for my chai recipe months and months ago. Here it is, at last.

When I make chai, it’s usually a haphazard affair that involves tossing in a little of this, a little of that, and whatever else I feel like adding. This recipe is an attempt to systematize my chai making process; feel free to deviate from it in whatever way you choose. It will still be delicious.

I always buy whole spices. They have better flavor and last longer than pre-ground


3 tbs. whole cardamom pods

2 medium sized cinnamon sticks

2 tsp. whole cloves

1 tsp. coriander seeds

1/2 tsp. black pepper

2 inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled

Toast the spices at low heat in a pan on the stove until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Grind spices coarsely in a coffee grinder, or by hand in a mortar.

Grate or chop the ginger.

Mix everything together.

Add about a tablespoon of the spice blend to a cup and a half of whole milk in a saucepan. Simmer for a minute or two, and allow to steep as you prepare black tea.

Make two strong cups of black tea with plenty of room for milk.

Strain spiced milk into a pitcher and add honey to taste.

Add milk to the cups of tea; serve. Makes two cups.

Notes: You will have chai mix leftover. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container.

You can use the spice mix to flavor clarified butter, as a rub for meats or anything else you can think up.

Chai can be made in larger batches for a crowd; simply steep the tea in a large teapot and make a bigger batch of spiced milk.

You can also steep the spice mix with the tea and heat the milk separately, adding  honey (or sugar) to the final product to taste.

Always use whole milk.


One of the lessons that I learned at my first restaurant job in high school and have always carried with me: peel ginger with a spoon.


Forgive me, but grating ginger can be, well, grating; chopping it is usually easier. I switched to chopping halfway through and was better off for it.

Cinnamon crush

I broke the cinnamon into smaller pieces with my suribachi to make it easier to fit into my coffee grinder (of course I have a dedicated coffee grinder for non-coffee materials).

The mix
Tea: four minutes, loose leaf.

I ordinarily use English Breakfast or a similarly robust black tea for my chai. Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling , and other delicately flavored varietals are too subtle to stand up to chai’s high spicing. Earl Grey and Irish Breakfast are also good choices, and Lapsang Souchong adds a nice hint of smoke.

Honeyed, spiced milk and strong, black tea, ready to be joined
The final product, ready for drinking

7 thoughts on “A belated chai recipe

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