Friday, December 5, 2014

Homemade Masala Chai!

I am so excited to share this recipe with you all!  I love-love-love chai, and I felt like a thrilled little kid when I found out I could make it at home last year.  It wasn't until this summer that I had all the ingredients I needed for a good chai, and to be honest, there's still one ingredient I leave out, but I am very pleased with what I have, and I want to tell you about it!

Homemade masala chai recipe

I've been holding on to a few chai recipes on Pinterest, when when I came across this one from Indian Simmer a few weeks ago, I decided to finally try it out.  I didn't have any whole ginger, but I made the recipe anyway, and it sort of tasted like chai, but I was not pleased.  I'd steeped the tea too long, and even without the tea, it was all too bitter.

I decided to start keeping track of my variations during my search for the perfect mug of steaming chai.  I mixed things around with that first recipe and tweaked here and there.  I found out that, besides steeping the tea too long, another way to make the chai bitter is to use too many cardamom pods.  Turns out that I haven't yet hit the cinnamon ceiling yet (I love cinnamon), but I do think that 3 cloves per 4 cups of chai is the happy place in clove department.

Another big change came to the sweetener.  I started using only stevia, because health, but that faint artificial taste stevia has wasn't covered up enough in the final product, so I decided to switch to brown sugar.  The artificial taste disappeared when I made the change, of course, and adding a 1/4 tsp of stevia for extra-extra sweetness if I wanted it was fine.  The fake flavor didn't peak out in such a small dose.

Halfway through my chai journey, I checked out this version from Pooja Makhijani that she shared on Cup of Jo.  This is where I learned of people using all kinds of spices, which I still wasn't including.  I also thought to crush the cinnamon, which made a very big difference.  Finally, the cinnamon was coming through like I wanted it to!

Homemade masala chai

For my last batch of chai before writing this post, I did finally put in some ground ginger, which of course brought in that gingery and somewhat floral, pointed flavor.  To be honest, I liked it better without the ginger, so I'll be sharing my non-ginger recipe.  I also tried it with whole milk in the last batch.  According to Tanvi at The Hathi Cooks, the more fat available in your chai, the more your aromatics will open up, but I didn't notice much of a difference.  Maybe I was too distracted by the ginger.

My last note here stems from a misreading of the first recipe I used.  I thought the author recommended a pinch of garam masala after straining, but she actually said a pinch of chai masala, which is just all the spices used in chai in a blend.  Here I've been testing and finessing my chai with what was actually a secret ingredient I brought in all along!  So yes, I add a pinch (or two or three!) of garam masala to my mug right before I drink it, and it brings in such a lovely smokey and spicy magic.  I love it, and I would never drink my homemade chai without it.  The chai on its own, even with pumped up cinnamon, is sweet and mild-ish.  The garam masala makes it much more robust, which goes better with wintry weather, in my opinion.  With all this flavor, there's no need for vanilla or anything Starbucks-y!

  • 2 cups water
  • 4-5 cloves
  • 4 bruised cardamom pods
  • 1-1.25 crushed cinnamon sticks
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 4 black tea bags
  • pinches of garam masala
  1. Bring water, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon to a boil in a small pot.
  2. Once all that is boiling, add 2 cups milk and 2 tbs. brown sugar (and I added 1/16 tsp. stevia to make it a bit sweeter without adding more sugar).  Be prepared to remove the pot from the heat as soon as this mixture starts to boil, because it will bubble a lot and might foam over if you're not watching it.  (See #4 in the picture below.)
  3. Once you remove from heat, add the tea bags and steep as you like your tea. I've found 3 minutes to be my favorite.
  4. Strain chai into mugs and add a pinch or two of garam masala for that extra spiced and smokey flavor.

    Be sure to keep an eye on the pot after you've added the milk.  Move a wooden spatula along the bottom of the pot to keep the milk from scalding and depositing.  The milk will bubble and froth, so be prepared to remove it from the heat as soon as it's boiling so it doesn't spill over your pot.  See my pictures below.

    Homemade masala chai

    The first time I made my chai according to my recipe shared here, my batch was 4 cups.  I drank all 4 cups in one evening, and I did the same thing two days later.  Yum, yum, yum.

    Homemade masala chai
    My almost finished product!  A pretty mug, the strained chai, and garam masala.


  1. love your 'L' mug! this sounds yummy!

  2. I can't wait to try this! It sounds so simple too!


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