Friday, April 2, 2010

How to make your own chai

Ek cup chai krapya. That's how you order chai in India, not "one chai latte elephant vanilla decaf, please". True, the sweet, made-from-concentrate chai you can get at coffee shops and the like taste nice and when I'm shopping I also sometimes get one on the go. But that's not the real deal. Also you can't get it when you are at home with  some close friends and need something to accompany a great conversation or soothe the mind.

I will share my tried and true recipe with you, but first some clarification.

Chai is a wonderful word that is used in different cultures for "tea". I know of Iran and India, but there are more, I am sure. In Germany we use the word "Tee", like the English word. What we mean by it is simply tea leaves brewed or boiled in hot water. In the Middle East and parts of Asia tea is often combined with milk and spices. During my time in India I fell in love with Indian chai. It was the most common drink apart from water, I'd say. Every time my driver stopped somewhere, he offered me a small glass/plastic cup (about 100ml) of the sweet hot chai. It is in essence black tea brewed with milk and water and added spices. The combination of spices is what influences the quality of the chai. It is very difficult to get the combination just right so that neither ginger, cinnamon nor cloves are too dominant. Whenever I drink a cup of a perfectly harmoneous blend, what comes to my mind is the word "serenity". Good chai never fails to calm me down.

You need:

So, here we go:

Homemade Masala Chai 

Black tea (Nice quality and/or organic preferred. First or second flush are good) no tea bags!

Milk (anyone tried soy?)

Same amount of water

Ginger, sliced (about one small thumb size, like 3 cm/1 inch)

2 Cloves

A cinnamon stick

4-6 cardamom pods (slightly crushed so the tea can get inside)


1. Fill a medium sized pot (mine fits about 1.5 liters) half with water and half with milk.

2. Fill a tea egg/sock/filter with 2 tablespoons (not heaped) of the black tea. Add the spices (you can also put them straight in the water, they are easy to pick out). Add to the pot.

3. Heat and simmer for about 1.5 hours, tasting occasionally whether the spices are getting too sharp.

4. Add some sugar to taste and enjoy.

Too much effort? Believe me, it's worth it.


Funnily enough the recipe is from my favorite Indian restaurant over here in Bremen. The people here are super friendly and the atmosphere is very relaxing. Check here for some local interculturality, if you want. You can see the owner on the website, who I've known for quite a while now and who was so sweet as to share his recipe with me. Although the restaurant is called Bombay he is not from Mumbai. Not all Italian restaurant owners can be from Venetia either, right?! So much for cultural stereotypes.

Bringing home recipes from your holidays can be so great or such a disappointment. My family often brought home wine and cheese (Pecorino) from our holidays in Italy only to discover that they had tasted soo much better under the Italian sun. Other recipes become family favorites and remind everybody of the wonderful time everybody had. Here are two really nice examples by prominent bloggers:

Check "Sweet Paul" for a wonderful travel story and a hearted recipe. (Hello Paul, I just bought Ricotta yesterday and am going to prepare your dish right now. Thanks so much!)

Let me know if you try the chai recipe yourself or if you have any questions. What is "tea" in your language?


Fabi said...

Tea means Tee ;)! Hehe, I guess you know that :)!

I will try the recipe, if I have some time for it :)!

Fabi (BubbLeGumGirLie for Comments on Craft/Design Blogs)

PS. I don't like to comment in German if the blog is in English, that's why I use my best English here ;)!

Anu said...

Hi, gud to have u in India. May I point out a mistake? Its "Masala" not "Marsala" meaning a mix of spices. In India, first the water, spice and tea leaves or powder is brewed, filtered and then milk added to it so that we can decide how much we want the tea to be light or strong (bitterness more or less) and then you can add sugar. Please visit again.

Maria Isabel said...

I should give this tea a try. I am strictly a coffee person since all the tea" Ive tried is American :S I might give Indian tea a chance ;)
-mariaisabel "comments on craft/design blog swap"

Charlotte said...

Hello Anu,

you're right, a typo crept in. I think the German version is sometimes spelled with an "r". And I have seen Indians brew the tea with milk, not added later. I guess both recipes are in use. Do you use the same spices?
Thanks for commenting!

Abbie said...

Oh yummy... Thanks for your recipe!
I'm Australian so we call it tea, though sometimes we just say a "cuppa" a shortened version of "a cup of tea." I know in Indonesia they call it "teh."

Anu said...

ys some brew the whole thing together but if u want 2 control the taste u can add milk later. i like that version since i can make it sweet or bitter according to the mood haha nd yeah i use the same spices it.

Charlotte said...

Hello Anu,
thanks for the great tip! I really miss having chai at every street corner.

sweetdaisydreams said...

thanks for that, I will try. love glendas sb

Charlotte said...

Let me know if you can how it worked out.

Lindy said...

I love chai and love that you shared your recipe for an authentic flair... and for my tea I only use soymilk (for my cereal I prefer rice milk)...
collagecafe04 swapbot

Ambrosia Jefferson said...

I love chai. thank you for sharing this.

~LadyAmbrosia Swapbot

Fi said...

mmmm chai :)
The first time I drank it, it was made with soymilk and since then I prefer it with soymilk. The nutty flavor definitaly ads to the whole.

I find that yogi tea also has a good mixture for chai when you are in a hurry.

fii -swapbot