Homemade Chai

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In many Eurasian languages, chai or cha is actually the word for tea.  It comes from the Persian chay.  In India, a common way of drinking tea is called Masala chai – literally meaning “mixed-spice tea.”  Despite this, in many Western languages this spiced tea has been conflated with the word masala, and now in the U.S. we commonly refer to mixed spice tea as simply chai.

Decades before chai became a popular drink in America I was exposed to it from my girlfriend Lenore, who would put up a pot of chai whenever my family visited hers in the fall or winter months in MA. While you can buy it now in all kinds of mixes, pre-made or in flavored tea bags, nothing has ever compared to the satisfying warmth and sweet spicing of her homemade chai.

Making chai isn’t difficult. You do need to purchase the spices, and then prepare the tea with patience. The simmering is as worthy as the sipping. Thanks to Meatless Mondays I’ve decided to finally get the recipe and share the love. This beautiful spiced drink warms the heart and soul on cold winter nights.



  • 6 cups of water
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 5 generous teaspoons of cardamom pods, lightly smashed w/knife
  • 1” fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
  • 6 whole cloves


  • Optional spices: (I like to use these as well)
  • 3 whole allspice berries
  • A little fresh cracked black pepper
  • Shake or 2 of fresh ground nutmeg


  • 2 -4 teabags, black tea like Darjeeling or English breakfast, or even add a boxed Chai teabag
  • 2 -3 cups milk; you can use whole cows milk (organic) or soybean (organic), almond, or a combo of them.


Brew all the spices in a pot with 6 cups of water, until you have a concentrated brew. Bring spices to a boil for 5 minutes, then simmer for at least 20 minutes, or as Lenore says, “ …until someone asks; Hey, whatever happened to that chai you were making?! “  Expect your entire kitchen to smell fragrant, and over 1/3 of the liquid to evaporate. Once it’s strong, add the tea bags, and let simmer for another few minutes.

Then add the milk, and simmer until the brew starts to rise and foam a little – about 4 minutes. Take care for it not to reach the top of the pot and scald. Partially cover and let it sit for 2-3 minutes before straining. Add honey, agave, or sweetener to taste. As with all food…serve with love.   This recipe yields about 6 cups. You can play with the quantity of water/milk to suite your taste.


Leftover tea (if you’re lucky to have any) can be refrigerated and reheated the following day.   



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