How to Make Homemade Chai (Spiced Tea)
Enjoy a different kind of cuppa...
Healthy Alternative To Coffee or Tea
A cup of tea or coffee in the morning can really help to wake you up and get you going. But what if you want to cut down on your caffeine intake? Decaffeinated tea or coffee is possible but the process to remove the caffeine can be based upon a chemical treatment. Hmmmm...personally, I am trying to cut down on consuming anything processed.
So where does that leave you in the morning when you want a hot cup of pick-me-up?
It's easier than you think.
There are probably as many different recipes to make chai as there are great photos of sunrises. The one I provide below is an adaptation of the original recipe given to me, so after trying this one a few times, tinker with it as you make different batches to suit your palate.
Benefits of Homemade Chai
Here are some benefits of homemade chai:
- You know what goes into it.
- It’s not processed in a factory.
- You can adjust the ingredients every time you make a batch.
- When it is cooking, your house smells wonderful!
- You don't have to give up any of the great flavour on days when you feel like some caffeine. Just chuck in a tea bag when you heat it up (more below on how to do this).
- If you do keep your chai caffeine-free, you can also enjoy it as a nice warm beverage after a hard day at work or before bed.
Did you know 'chai' simply means
'tea' in Hindi and Urdu?
Do I need exotic ingredients?
Although making your own chai might sound a bit nerve-wracking, if you can boil water, then you can make your own chai.
Most of the ingredients can probably be found in your local grocery store in the Asian/Indian or foreign section. That's where I source all of mine except the black cardamom pods and ajwain seeds, which are optional anyway. These should be available at a South Asian grocer (Indian or Pakistani grocer) or, if either fail, you could probably find them online.
The (not technical) Equipment You Will Need
- one medium pot. I use a pot that holds about 1,500 mL (6 cups, or 1.5 quarts).
- one cooking element - usually on your stove, but you could make this over a campfire too. What a way to wake up the campsite!
- chai concentrate ingredients (below)
- one fine strainer (optional)
- one funnel (optional)
- one sterilized container to hold the finished chai (something easy to pour from). Add in some reducing, reusing and recycling by washing out a milk jug or large glass jar for storing your chai in the fridge.
Instructions For Making Homemade Chai Concentrate
- Put all of the chai ingredients into the pot.
- Fill the pot with water.
- Bring the water and ingredients to a boil, uncovered.
- Reduce to low and let simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. The water level will reduce, this is fine.
- Turn off the burner and let the contents cool in the pot.
- Transfer the cooled concentrate to the storage container. *Strain out the concentrate spices when you pour it into the storage container by putting a funnel in the top of the container, then a fine sieve on top of the funnel. It needs to be fine to catch the smaller bits like the peppercorns and fennel seeds.
- Store in the fridge. It will probably keep for up to a week in the fridge, but mine doesn't last more than a few days so I've never found out how long it will stay good for.
- See the further instructions below for how to use the concentrate to make your daily cup of chai.
Breaking open cardamom pods - for black or green podsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Chai Concentrate Ingredients
- 1 x 2-3 Cinnamon Stick, section of stick
- 5 cloves, whole
- 2 star anise, whole
- 10 peppercorns, whole
- 1/2 teaspoon ajwain seed, (optional)
- 1 tablespoon fennel seed, whole
- 1 teaspoon dried ginger, OR 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
- 1 black cardamom pod, broken open (optional)
- 2 tablespoons whole green cardamom pods, broken open
- water, to fill the pot
- A dash of Love, because it makes everything better!
- A sprinkle of Humor, to keep you healthy :)
BLACK CARDAMOM: If you find the recipe too strong, try eliminating the black cardamom from your next batch. This spice can be very strong for some.
OPENING BLACK OR GREEN CARDAMOM PODS: To break open the cardamom pods, hold the stem end of the pod in your fingers. Press the other end against a hard surface and the pod will split open. It doesn’t need to be completely spread open, just one split will do. Some pods get hard when they dry out and need lots of pressure to split.
PEELING GINGER: To peel fresh ginger, scrape it with the side of a butter knife or a spoon and the skin peels away easily.
TOO MUCH GINGER?: Peel it and freeze it. Just use a grater to grate the amount you need into your recipe. Alternatively, slice the ginger, divide it into how much you need each time to make this recipe, take each bunch and put it into the individual sections of an ice cube tray, carefully fill with water and freeze. Once frozen, pop out the ginger cubes and store in a baggie in the freezer. Now each time you want to make more chai, just throw a ginger ice cube into the pot! This also works well for any fresh herb like leftover cilantro, mint, etc.
A Turkish Coffee Pot - perfect for heating up your morning chai!
Making Your Morning Cup Of Chai
To make your morning chai you need to dilute the concentrate down. As with the ingredients, you can adjust the levels to suit your own taste.
TIP: A Turkish coffee pot is ideal for heating up your chai because it can go directly on an electric element or gas flame and is designed for pouring. I use mine for heating up almost anything liquid in an effort to use the microwave less.
TIP: To save dishes, just pour everything into your drinking mug then transfer that to the (Turkish coffee) pot.
Combine the following:
- 1/3 cup of chai concentrate
- 1/3 cup of milk (organic if possible)
- 1/8 cup of water (optional)
*NOTE: Play around with the amount of concentrate, milk and water. I often like doing a 50/50 split of chai concentrate and milk with no extra water.
- 1 teaspoon of ghee (= clarified butter; optional)
- 1 tea bag (optional, for days you want caffeine)
Bring this mixture to a boil over medium heat.
*Once it heats up it will boil over quickly so do not leave this unattended!*
Pour the hot mixture into your mug with your sweetener of preference, if desired, and enjoy!
A word about sweeteners...
To me, chai tastes better with a sweetener, but I often drink it without. I do not recommend heating this recipe with the sweetener added. For some reason I've never figured out, it just tastes better when you put the sweetener in your mug and add the chai mixture to it.
According to Ayurvedic medicine, honey becomes toxic when heated because the structure changes, so, just to be on the safe side, I especially recommend not heating this with honey.
My sweeteners of choice are agave syrup (good for people with blood sugar sensitivities) or honey. If you have to use a processed sugar try for a less refined sugar like (genuine) demerara sugar, sucanat or turbinado sugar.
Did you know honey in a sealed container doesn’t spoil!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2010 Amanda Hare