Chai Tea

What follows is a recipe that I learned from living and traveling in India in the 1980's. The tea has been somewhat changed and adapted over the years but what has been consistent has been how much it has been loved and appreciated by so many along the way...

I hope you get a real kick out of it yourself - it's incredibly good for you and, when you get it right (practice is everything in life - including making chai) it tastes phenomenal!



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Recipe - Ingredients & Instructions
  • Get a large saucepan - the following amounts are to make a good 1.8-2 litres of Chai which you can either serve to a group of friends or put into a thermos to enjoy through the day (because if you're going to this much trouble to make a cup of tea then you ought to get a lot of enjoyment out of it!)
  • fill the saucepan with approximately 1.5 litres and turn the heat on to full
  • Add approx 2 'thumbs' (that means an amount that is at least as big as your thumb) of coarsely cut fresh ginger to the water.
  • Get to your mortar and pestle (if possible you want to use a good strong stone one) and then add the following spices all together before you start grinding them. I guess you could use an electronic grinder but would it be the same as pounding and grinding yourself? I don't think so...
    Note that this is where making your chai gets particularly interesting as small adjustments in the amount of spices you use will give a markedly different flavour to the chai. I am giving a suggested range that, whether you go high or low, should have people going 'wow! that is amazingly good!'
  • Cardamom pods 6-12 (these give a tremendous amount of flavour to the chai - don't be shy!
  • Black peppercorns 6-10 (this will greatly influence how 'hot' it tastes - adjust to the season)
  • Cloves 1-2 (just a very light touch with these - some of you may even prefer to leave them out)
  • Cinnamon 1/2 to 1 whole 'log' (cinnamon comes in a lot of different strengths, this also influences the flavour a great deal so try smaller to higher amounts)
  • grind all these spices up until they are well and truly broken up - inhale deep!
    place all of them in that pot of water which has been steadily getting hotter all the time
  • then grate a few sprinkles (not too much, very strong!) of whole nutmeg over the water 
  • then add approx 2-3 good dessertspoons of the best black loose-leaf tea you know or you can find - it should smell excellent, be well and truly black, and it should not be too crumbly in your fingers but rather have a crisp dryness (this is a measure of its freshness)
  • put in a good amount of sugar at this point - raw sugar is ideal. Many people are anxious about adding sugar to a cup of tea when in fact they eat far greater amounts of what in effect is also simply 'sugar' in the bread, rice, potatoes etc. that they eat every day. I recommend a large handful of sugar with the amounts we are talking about making here but you can try more or less to your taste - definitely have at least some sugar or use honey if you prefer.
  • then add about half to one cup of milk - normal cow's milk is what is mostly used but I personally use goats milk and no-one ever knows unless I tell them. Use soy milk if you have a lactose intolerance.

    Depending on what kind of heat you are using and how long it takes you to grind the spices etc. you should be near to getting your pot up to a simmer. Don't let it boil over but do allow the tea and the spices to 'roil' around on a gentle simmer for at least 5 minutes - you can cook it longer, certainly up to as long as 15 minutes if you want to get an even stronger and spicier tea but somewhere a little over 5 minutes usually seems about right.

    Naturally enough this is quite a tricky pot of tea to strain, I recommend using a good sized sieve and a sink! Strain into a jug and pour out into cups to serve now or strain into a thermos and enjoy for the day ahead.

Please understand that I cannot advise you, including on products or dosage, without seeing you in person in my clinic but for ideas on how you might find a good herbalist in your area read here

This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd