Real Chai Recipe
Nothing beats a good cup of chai on a rainy day, sitting with a steamy mug listening to the drumming of the rain. Indian chai is made by boiling water, milk and black tea, often with spices like ginger and cardamom. (And it’s quite different from a chai latte, the American variation.) The prescribed method for adding ingredients, boiling time, and types of spices can vary wildly, and half the fun is trying to find your favorite. Love cardamom? Well, then add some extra! Boil it longer, shorter, make it stronger or weaker, or throw in some new spices and see what happens.
Unless you have dietary restrictions I would highly recommend using cow’s milk. I have tried making chai with soy milk, but it just isn’t very good. The other important ingredient is the tea itself. You can use regular black loose leaf tea, but if you can find an Indian grocery store where you live try to get your hands on tea that is meant for chai. I like Red Label and Taj Mahal. It’s not absolutely necessary, but some chai masala will make your chai even better.
2 cups of water
3 green cardamom pods
3 tsp black tea *
1 tbsp fresh ginger
2 cups nonfat or 2% milk
1/2 tsp chai masala
Crush cardamom and ginger with a pestle and mortar. (If you don’t have one, open the cardamom pods with your fingers and smash the ginger with the back of a knife.) Bring water, cardamom and ginger to a boil.
When the water starts to simmer add the tea and stir, then add the milk and the chai masala. Bring to a boil again, watching the pot carefully. If you don’t, you’ll learn the hard way why I advice you not go and read the paper… Simmer for about 3 minutes or until the color looks satisfactory, depending on how strong you like your chai.
Pick out big pieces of ginger with a spoon, then strain the chai into cups. Add sugar to taste. (I like mine unsweetened, which according to any Indian is unthinkable. Just don’t tell them.)
* Note on the black tea: I use Indian orange pekoe tea especially for making chai (see links above), but you can use any black loose leaf tea. Just be careful not to brew it for too long or it will get bitter.