Recipe for Indian chai

June 25, 2014

I have a recipe to share today for some lovely Indian chai masala.* It is dark and rainy here, and a cup of spiced, milky tea sounded perfect to me. Normally, I think of chai for cold autumn or winter days, but consider what 19th century British Prime Minister William Gladstone said about tea . . . 

If you are cold, tea will warm you;
if you are too heated, it will cool you;
if you are depressed, it will cheer you;
if you are excited, it will calm you.

So there you have it; tea is good any time, even in hot, steamy weather. Tea is good for your health, too. Read my previous post here, which contains a list of the health benefits of black tea. The spices traditionally used in chai also provide health benefits. Different varieties of chai can contain cinnamon, ginger, fennel, cloves, cardamom, and peppercorns, spices which are known to improve digestion, fight inflammation, and strengthen the immune system, among other things.

Use the flat surface of a santoku knife to crush the cardamom pods. Also shown is a star anise. Star anise comes from an evergreen tree native to northeast Vietnam and southwest China.
By the way, the British-owned Indian Tea Association was responsible for promoting tea drinking in India in the early 20th century. Wanting to increase their profits by getting another nation besides themselves hooked on tea, they allowed tea breaks for the Indian workers. The British custom of adding a little milk and sugar was tweaked by Indian tea vendors who increased the amounts of sugar and milk and added spices. Apparently, the British weren't too happy that the subsequent recipe used less tea, thus cutting into their profits! India itself continued to promote tea drinking among its population, and now 70% of India's vast tea crop is drunk locally. India now leads the world in tea drinking.

Indian Chai Masala Recipe**

2 1/4 cups water
1 whole star anise
1 stick cinnamon
4 cardamom pods, cracked
4-5 black tea bags or 1/4 cup loose black tea
2 cups whole milk or half and half
1/4 cup sugar

Press the cardamom pods until they crack. Bring the water, tea, star anise, cinnamon, and cardamom to a boil. Boil for 3 to 5 minutes until the tea is black and has reduced to about 2 cups. Strain and add the sugar. Add the milk and stir until hot. Makes 4 American-sized servings or 12+ Indian-sized servings.

Straining the tea

Did you notice the serving size on the recipe? Four American-sized servings or 12+ Indian-sized servings? Talk about the American penchant for super-sized everything! However, this teacup contains about 1/4 of the recipe, so I don't think it's really huge. It is a rich drink; one teacup was plenty for me. 

*"Chai tea" is actually redundant, as "chai" means tea. The correct usage is actually "chai masala," masala meaning a blend of spices used in Indian cooking.
** This recipe comes from a very dear friend's daughter, who recently moved to India to use her master's degree in counseling psychology to help women who have been victims of trauma and abuse recover and find useful self-employment. 


  1. This sounds like a very soothing tea. I have to agree with Gladstone on drinking tea. My daughter hates it when I drink tea on a hot summer's day outside, but that's the soothing part for me :) Some interesting tid bits here. My sister toured in India long ago, and she and her husband were laughed at when they added milk to their tea, they were told "only sugar" in tea, and their guides told them to hold a sugar cube in their front teeth and sip the black tea through the sugar. I take mine with milk, no sugar. Have a nice evening. Wendy x

  2. Deborah, I am just loving this chai tea. I pinned it to try. Yum. I love most kind of teas, hot and iced. Great observation about American sized servings. I have to chuckle here in Brazil oftentimes if you order a coffee at a cafe, you get a little drink about the size of a shot glass. No Grande Breve lattes here:) Have a great night. Thanks for sharing the yummy recipe..

  3. Hi Deborah, you're not going to believe this, but literally minutes ago I made myself a cup of tea and on the side of the pouch (Typhoon brand) I read the Gladstone quote!! And then I opened your post and there it was again! We learned to love tea when we lived in England and we love Chai as well. We had dear Pakistani friends who made it for us--yum.

  4. Love this recipe for Chai, Deborah, and I will certainly give it a try! I have two sons who were both exposed to Indian food/drink while in the Middle East and Asia, and they'll probably love this.

  5. Hi Deborah, I love Chai tea too. I have read this quote many times and believe it to be so true.
    Love your pretty tea cup!! Thank you for sharing the recipe.
    Have a nice weekend.

  6. Oh, I'll bet your kitchen smelled wonderful when you were brewing this! Lovely photos, too. I learned some things about chai today, which I love to drink. What wonderful work your friend's daughter is doing - badly needed in that part of the world. Thank you for the recipe and have a lovely weekend! xo Karen

  7. I have never had Chai tea. Sounds very yummy! Sounds tea is a wonderful cure all! Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  8. Dearest Deborah,
    Love Chai tea and my Indian friend makes the best. Not using sugar however... that would not fit my diet for being diabetic type II.
    What a nobel cause your friend's daughter has chosen.
    Hugs and happy weekend to you.

  9. Oh dear Deborah, I love Chai tea and never knew how to make it. I will do your recipe for my next rosary prayer tea at my house! Thanks so much for sharing the r├ęcipe with us and thank you for your sweet comment on my girl's 10th. b'day bash.
    Have a terrific weekend.

  10. Ohhhh....and I also adore that gorgeous blue teacup!

  11. Hi Deborah,

    Wow! So many fun and interesting facts about Chai tea, which I've never had, although the Cretans do brew a tea that contains cinnamon, cloves, star anise, ginger and lemon, without any added tea bags. It is more a winter elixir, as it is quite rich in aroma and flavour. Thanks for sharing your lovely pics and the tutorial on tea prep!


  12. You always have interesting posts, Deborah! And the most beautiful teacups to sip your tea.
    Mary Alice

  13. Oh thank you for this recipe, Deborah. Chi is among my top favorite and your recipe looks delicious.

  14. Thank you so much. Very interesting info. Have a blessed Sunday.

  15. Thanks for sharing the recipe for indian chai. Someone else commented that you always have interesting posts and I have to agree...I love visiting your blog!

    I hope your weekend is going well and you're enjoying the beautiful June day!

  16. What a beautiful cup of tea, I love sharing it with you. Hope you are having a great week and thanks so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  17. Thank you so much. I have wanted to try a Chai recipe so this will be my first.

  18. Oh, MY! I bet this is delicious and fragrant! I do appreciate you sharing with Home and Garden Thursday,

  19. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I have a friend that use to make it for me and then she moved away. Plus she never would give me the recipe? This is my first visit to your blog, it quite lovely.


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