Monday, January 31, 2011

Spiced Chai

As the gray days of winter meander along here in Seattle, I find myself preparing all manner of warm beverages to brighten my mood. Coffee, tea, and hot chocolate all fit the bill nicely - but there is something so soothing about the warming spices and gentle sweetness of chai that keeps me turning back to this recipe.

(Or maybe it's just the hefty dose of caffeine. I can't really be sure.)

The recipe I've outlined here is more of a guideline. I like my chai moderately spiced and sweetened, and definitely creamy. I use a handful of different spices - perhaps to justify my compulsive spice shopping habit - but you can certainly leave out any that you don't like or don't have. Up the quantities of spices if you like a really spicy chai. Me? - I prefer to let the flavor of the tea leaves shine through with the spices adding a gentle background note.

I'll get to the recipe in a second, but first a little background on my chai escapades. My first introduction to chai was at my aunt and uncle's house as a young girl. They were world travelers with many treks to remote regions of India and Nepal under their belt and the food they served was equally exotic. I remember being served a peppery chai that was bewildering but wonderful. I was hooked.

Fast forward a few years to when I visiting my older sister in college. She had two roommates, one from Pakistan and one from India, who made simply spiced chai on a near daily basis. This was where I first learned to make a more traditional chai (compared to the tasty but utterly different chai lattes that are available at coffee shops around here). As my sister can attest, there is nothing like a cup of chai to get you through a study session.

Lastly, in college I became mildly obsessed with replicating the chai from a nearby Indian restaurant (formerly Cedar's - now Taste Of India). Their chai is heaven, pure heaven. I have yet to be completely successful in my replication efforts (maybe I'll have to get a job there to learn their secret?) but this version I'm posting comes pretty darn close. At the very least, it filled all my cravings for chai on this cold, blustery day.

Onto the recipe...

First you'll need some ginger and some whole peppercorns.

I used about 3/4 inch of ginger, sliced up and 10 peppercorns. If you don't have whole peppercorns, I recommend leaving them out as ground pepper would be difficult to strain out. And nobody wants gritty chai.

By the way, an easy way to peel ginger is to use the side of a spoon. As you pull the spoon along, it will release the skin - voila! - peeled ginger.

This is a lot easier to do if you're not trying to use your uncoordinated left hand and take a picture at the same time.

You'll also need some whole cloves, anise seeds, cardamom pods, and a cinnamon stick.

I used:
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
1/8 tsp anise seeds
10 cardamom pods

Place 2 cups of in water in pot and add all the spices (including the ginger). Bring to a boil over the stove and gently simmer for 10 minutes.

Now for this recipe, I used 6 teabags of black tea (orange pekoe, darjeeling or any unflavored black tea). Note, that it only serves 1-2 people. So if you're downing the whole batch yourself or are caffeine sensitive you might want to use fewer tea bags.

Or you could use all or half decaf teabags.

Now that the spices have simmered for 10 minutes, turn off the stove and add the teabags. Let steep for 5 minutes.

Now add 1 cup milk plus a splash of cream.

Or instead of the splash of cream you could use half n' half or just additional milk. Your choice.

I like cream.

Take a moment and enjoy the beautiful swirling colors.

Is there anything more therapeutic than this?

Now add 2 tbsp of sugar to the whole mix.

Turn the stove back on (medium/medium-high) and bring the whole mixture to a boil and let simmer for just a moment before removing from the heat.

Be sure to watch the mixture because milk has a tendency to bubble over.

The mixture should look something like this, with the faintest hint of frothy milk. Don't worry if a "skin" forms on the top of the mixture (we're boiling milk after all). You can simply spoon it away, or just filter it out in the next step.

Finally, strain the tea to remove the spices. It may be easiest to remove the tea bags first.

I strained it into a teapot for kicks, but you could strain it directly into your mug.

The last step is to enjoy a cup! Preferably curled up on the sofa with a blanket and a good book or shared over a heartfelt chat with a friend.

Spiced Chai
1-2 servings*

3/4 inch ginger, peeled and sliced
~10 peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
1/8 tsp anise seeds
5 cloves
10 cardamom pods
2 cups water
6 black teabags (orange pekoe, darjeeling, etc.)
1 cup milk
1/8 cup cream, half n'half, or additional milk
2 tbsp sugar

Place 2 cups of water in a medium sized pot. Add spices (ginger through cardamom). Bring to a boil on the stove and simmer 10 minutes. Turn off heat. Add tea bags and let steep 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients (milk, cream, and sugar) and turn the stove back on. Bring to a boil. Allow to simmer for a moment (~20 seconds) and then take off heat. Strain and enjoy.

*This recipe is easily doubled


  1. it looks so yummy
    lovely pics too

  2. I loved every sip of this wonderful spice chai... !

  3. I have been looking for a chai recipe that was more on the creamy side, and this looks wonderful. Can't wait to try it!

  4. Just what I need on this cold and wintery day! Thanks.

  5. This needs to make an appearance at potluck Thursdays!

  6. Lovely step by step pictures. I can have chai anytime of the day.

    Glad to meet another Seattle blogger :)

  7. Hi Sarah! This looks so nice:) I can't believe I've never done it. I often steep ginger and cloves to make an herbal tea, but never the whole shebang like you've done here. This is a must try and soon!

  8. Definitely going to try this!

    I commented last night, on another post, asking if you plan to continue blogging. I didn't realize that this was a recent post...whoops. So glad to see that you're still an active blogger!

  9. @ Delphine, Sonia, Sadie, & Zeralda: Thanks! Glad you guys enjoyed the post!

    @ Laura: I definitely agree - perhaps this week?

    @ Manju: It's always fun to meet local bloggers. Your blog looks like it is filled with wonderful photos and recipes. I'm planning to make your roasted eggplant raita soon!

    @ Stella: An herbal tea made of ginger and cloves sounds delicious - I'll have to try that.

    @ Simple Shutter Photography: I have indeed taken multiple long hiatuses from blogging (sigh!) but I'm currently feeling inspired and hope to keep posting on a more regular basis. Encouraging feedback like yours always helps! I'm so glad you've been enjoying my blog.

  10. I've made this twice now.

    It's AMAZING.

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