I first fell in love with homemade spiced chai in high school when a friend’s mother brought back teas and spices from a trip to India. She made me a delicious spicy drink with a concoction of spices, whole milk, and honey that she steeped on the stove in her farm kitchen and served steaming hot with cayenne pepper in a hand-thrown mug. I can’t go back to that time and that kitchen, but I have attempted to re-create the spiced chai. I can say that it’s pretty close!
This recipe requires you to use whole spices, some of which you may have to hunt for, but it really is worth it. I was able to find everything at a health-food store in the bulk spices section. I stocked up on some of the harder to find ingredients so I can whip up some of this chai when I crave it.
To make the spiced chai concentrate you will need a loose-leaf black tea as a base. I used Darjeeling, but you could also use an English black tea such as English Breakfast. The recipe itself is very straight-forward and takes no time at all. Place all of your whole spices with the sliced ginger in some cheesecloth and tie at the top with butcher’s twine, making a bouquet garni. The bundle of spices gets simmered in water and removed, and there you have your chai concentrate. I like to leave the concentrate unsweetened and without milk so its more adaptable to individual taste. For each serving, add whole milk or cream, sugar or honey to your liking. If you’re adventurous, try it with a little cayenne. It gives the chai a great kick.
The concentrate will last approximately a week in the fridge for further use, so you can shamelessly make the full 6 cups of concentrate for yourself without consequence!
- 2 inch thumb of fresh ginger, sliced into rounds
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 teaspoons ground black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom pods
- 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
- 6 teaspoons Darjeeling loose leaf tea
- 6 cups cold water
- whole milk or 2% to taste
- brown sugar or honey to taste
- Assemble the spices and loose leaf tea into a bouquet garni: bundle in two layers of cheesecloth and tie securely at the top.
- Place the bouquet garni in a large pot with 6 cups of water.
- Simmer gently for 15 minutes, paddling the spice bundle with a wooden spoon for the last minute of steeping. Remove the spice bundle, and serve hot with milk and sugar or honey, and cayenne.
- Chai spices adapted from Epicurious.