How to Make Chai Tea From Scratch
I forgot to buy coffee yesterday and woke up at a God-awful hour without. After much deliberation, I decided to get my morning caffeine fix from tea instead of driving to the nearest open store. I also knew that my son would be all over that when he woke up. Plus my house will smell like heaven for hours.
We love chai tea. The first time I had chai was ten years ago. My daughter made it. She had worked at a coffee bistro as a teenager and created lots of yummy beverages. I had never heard of chai, and I wasn't a tea drinker—but I tried it anyway.
Oh yeah... I could drink this all day long...
There are hundreds of recipes for chai tea on the internet. Many of them are similar. All of them call for a myriad of spices. Chai (pronounced kai) means 'tea' in many countries, so it's no wonder there are so many variations. How misleading... so what I really wanted was my daughter's version of the American version of a chai tea latte.
In my search for the best, most flavorful chai, my kids and I tried several different recipes. In the end, I adapted several recipes into one and came up with the best chai recipe ever.
This is time-consuming but worth it!
- 32 Cardamom Pods, Whole
- 32 Cloves, Whole
- 4 Cinnamon Sticks, Sticks
- 24 Peppercorns, Whole
- 4-5 TBL Ginger, Fresh-Grated or Chopped
- 4 c Water
- 10 bags Black Tea, Any
- 3 TBL Sugar or Honey
- 1 c Milk
Pot With Spices
- Put all the spices and the fresh ginger in a large pot with the water. Bring to a low boil and simmer 15–20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to stand for at least thirty minutes
- Add tea bags and return to heat briefly. Allow to stand for another 20 minutes.
- Using a collander, strain the spices reserving the tea. Return the tea to the pot.
- Add sugar and stir
- Add milk. Return to heat just long enough to warm the milk.
Marrying the Spices
The key to this recipe is the spices. Roots, stems, bark, and seeds need their flavors to be extracted for a longer period of time than plant matter. They need time to absorb the water in order to extract their virtues. The longer they are allowed to absorb the liquid, the stronger and more flavorful the final product will be.
Heat is also necessary. With herbal matter, we add the herbs after the water has come to a boil and allow it to steep. With roots, stems, barks, and seeds, we bring them to a boil and simmer then allow to steep. It makes a HUGE difference in your final product.
The longer you steep these spices, the better. Sometimes I will start the tea the night before and finish it in the morning, adding the milk and sugar, warming it up.
Count out the spices and place them in a large pot. Add your water and bring to a boil. Cover and allow to simmer 15–20 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, crush the cardamom pods against the side of the pan to release the little seeds inside the pods. You will notice the spices are starting to get soft. As they are allowed to absorb the liquid, they will get even softer. Return the lid and allow the spices to continue infusing in the hot liquid.
Bring the liquid back up to a boil and add your teabags. Any black tea will do. The kids and I love to experiment with different exotic blends, like black currant or pomegranate. We always have Lipton on hand as my mother drinks it when she visits. But definitely mix it up.
Remove from heat and cover. Let stand fifteen more minutes or so. You want to extract as much flavor as possible from those tea bags. The whole house should smell just divine at this point, and you might have some lurkers waiting on what's in the pot...this is how you know you're doing it right.
Strain the herbs from the liquid. Always a pain. There is no easy way to get around this step. I use a 1/2 gal canning jar, a canning helper, and a strainer. It's a contraption I made up one day when I was lacking extra hands in the kitchen. Using a wooden spoon, press the herbs to release as much of the absorbed liquid as you can. Return all the liquid to your pot and add the sugar or honey. Briefly stir to dissolve then add your milk.
Bring the liquid back to heat just long enough to warm the milk.
Various Stages of ChaiClick thumbnail to view full-size
This recipe is time consuming but it's worth it.
We hope you think so too.
Let us know what you think in the comments below.
From our kitchen to yours,
© 2018 Kim French