How to make the perfect cup of Indian chai at home?
Sumi Mathai | November 1, 2019
Okay, tell us the truth, how many times have you googled “the best way to make Indian chai at home”? Don’t be shy, we all google things we may not want to admit in public. No matter whatever Google throws at you, the truth of chai-universe is that once you start brewing your chai regularly you will eventually become an expert at chai making. Because if you truly love chai, you can’t help but constantly explore ways to make it better, to brew your own signature potion. It’s the unspoken truth that every chai lover swears by.
Before starting, let’s get some facts clear. Indian chai, unlike the tea consumed in North America or the UK, is rich and milky, deeply coloured and flavourful. It is best had piping hot.
Now, let’s get to the making of it, and the ingredients required. Ideally the typical Indian chai is made with strong, black tea leaves, thick whole milk and a good amount of sugar (depends on how sweet you want your tea). You can make it a simple milk-tea-sugar concoction or you can even spice it up by adding ...spices , yes this version is called Masala Chai. The masala (spice mix) usually consists of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, bay leaf, peppercorn, but it can vary slightly according to personal preferences - add or subtract what you prefer, basically.
The success of making a good cup of chai depends on the quality of water and milk more than anything. The tea leaves are also important. You can find some excellent quality varieties here, straight from the gardens of Assam & Dooars.
Some people like to boil the water and milk separately, or to add the milk at the end. But we have found that the final product is quite effective even when you toss it all together in the sauce pan/ pot. So, let’s start with adding water, milk, spices and let it simmer in a saucepan on the stove.
You can either roast and grind your own spices in bulk but if it is not really practical for you, look for the already ground masala (Tea Masala) in any local Indian grocery store.
After everything is tossed in the pot and the heat is increased, wait for the tea to boil. Once it reaches its first boil, turn it to medium-high heat and let it simmer a bit. The best way to check if it is done is to watch for the color. The tea should turn a nice brown color. If it’s pale, it’s not done. But make sure it doesn't boil for too long, or it might become too concentrated and taste bitter.
Once the tea is done, take it off the heat and strain into glasses immediately. There you are, with the most loved drink by millions of Indians. Enjoy!
- 1 cup water (I use tap)
- 4 tsp. loose leaf tea
- Sugar, to taste
- 1 cup milk
- Add water, milk, sugar and tea leaves in a small pot and stir everything to mix.
- Continue heating over medium-high heat until the mix is rapidly boiling.
- Turn heat down a bit, and let the tea simmer until the color begins to change to a darker brown, 3-5 minutes.
- Increase the heat again and let the tea come to 3 more vigorous boils, approximately 2-3 minutes.
- Remove from heat, and strain into cups immediately.
For Masala Chai
Follow the same recipe and method as above, but also add
- small chunk of ginger, smashed
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 green cardamom pods, crushed
- small sliver of cinnamon
- 4 peppercorns
- 3 cloves
- Add these spices, whole, to the water when you add the tea leaves.
If using the pre-made ‘Tea Masala’ keep in mind that because the spices are ground, they are strong. A little goes a long way! Less than 1/4 tsp. per 2 cup-serving of chai should be enough.
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