Here’s How to Make Real Chai at Home!

It’s time to make the real stuff!  During a visit to Udaipur, Rajasthan, I attended Shashi’s delectable cooking classes.  The energetic woman was kind enough to pass the secret of Indian chai onto me – and I am happy to share it with you.  Chai is one of the things I love the most about India, and I promise it’s 100 times better than any of the fake syrup stuff you served in the West.  Here’s how to prepare it in less than 10 minutes:

Peppercorns.  Photo credit: Dennis Wilkinson.

Peppercorns. Photo credit: Dennis Wilkinson.

Ingredients (serves 1 cup)

  • 1 cup of milk
  • ¼ cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar (yes, 2 tablespoons! I haven’t gone mad – Indians like sweet!)
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of loose-leaf black tea
  • Seeds of 2 green cardamom pods (if you must, use a small pinch of ground cardamom instead)
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • A fingernail sized piece of ginger
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Strainer

Notes: Don’t waste your money on high-grade tea to make chai; the spices will overtake much of the tea leaves’ flavour anyway!

Cardamom pods.  Photo credit: Omar Chatriwala.

Cardamom pods. Photo credit: Omar Chatriwala.

Preparation

  1. Grind the cardamom seeds, black peppercorns and fresh ginger using a mortar and pestle.
  2. Bring spices and water to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes (essential step: boiling the spices in water before adding the milk ensures the ginger will not cause the milk to separate and clot).
  3. Add the milk, bring to a boil and simmer for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. The chai will turn to a colour like that of a café latté.  Now, smell the fragrant odour of the cardamom …mmm!
  5. Pour the preparation into a mug using a strainer to remove the solid pieces.

A quick note while we’re at it, the word chai itself translates as “tea”.  Therefore, calling for “chai tea” is basically asking for “tea tea”.  Drop the “tea” and enjoy this real chai!!  Sorry for the loss of revenue, Starbucks!

Enjoyed it?  Any tweaks you’ve tried that worked out well?

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