The word “chai” simply means, in many languages, “tea.” That’s why saying “chai tea” is an odd redundancy, like saying “café coffee.” Around here, though, “chai” is usually assumed to mean Indian spiced tea, or masala chai.
There are, of course, a million different ways to make chai. We’ve had a lot of different cups of it, in a lot of different places, and no two were ever the same. It’s taken years to settle on a consistent recipe that brings together all the best things from the different types we’ve tasted – and this, finally, is it.
The one common ingredient, no matter who’s making your chai, is cardamom. After that, ingredients vary wildly. Our blend is quite unique in that it includes ajowan, mint and rose petals in addition to fennel, cloves, cinnamon and ginger. The smell of the spice mix is a little different than the generic chai teabags that are so common now, but the flavour is full, complex and very fresh and fragrant.
We sell chai masala (tea spices) both on their own and with Indian Assam tea mixed in. The only disadvantage to having the tea mixed in is that you have to use a shorter simmering time, so the chai will be a little less flavourful. We include a recipe card with every purchase, but below are instructions to make it the way we make it at home. The key is the whole milk, which adds richness, and the relatively large amount of sugar. Sugar really brings out the flavour of the spices, and chai is almost always served very sweet.
Spices only: bring 5 cups of water to a boil in a pot on the stove. Add 3 tbsp of chai masala and simmer for 15 minutes. Add 1 cup of whole milk, 3 tbsp of loose Assam tea (or 3 orange pekoe teabags), and 2 tbsp of sugar (raw sugar or brown sugar is best). Simmer for 4 minutes, bring quickly to a boil and strain into a teapot.
Spice and tea mixture: bring 5 cups of water to a boil and add 6 tbsp of the spice and tea mixture. Simmer 5 minutes, add 1 cup of whole milk and 2 tbsp of sugar. Bring to a boil and strain.
Ingredients: cardamom, ginger, fennel, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, mint, rose petals, ajowan, Assam black tea (in version with tea).