Masala Chai: Spiced Indian Tea

31 May

How To Make Chai

My initiation into the kitchen was with tea-making – masala chai is all I knew how to prepare for many long years.

Chai is Hindi for tea, a word unknown no longer outside the Hindi-speaking diaspora – it’s usual for people to say "tea" when they mean Western-style tea, and "chai" when they’re talking about Indian-style tea.

As an ardent tea lover, I am especially excited to share this recipe with you. I hope you enjoy this aromatic tea made the Indian way as much as I do.

Indian masala chai is best made with Assam tea, of a specific type called "mamri" which is used loose (not in tea bags). Mamri tea has granules rather than leaves and is cheaper than leaf tea.

Oddly, nowadays in India it is rather unfashionable to have Indian-style tea. You’ll get it at dhabas or roadside eateries, not at high-end restaurants. Which reminds me of a visit to a salon in Delhi. The pedicurist offered me tea and when I said yes please, asked “Customer tea or staff tea?”. It turned out that customers at this salon were served western-style tea, and the staff were served Indian chai!

You Need:

(for two cups of tea)

  • Water – 1 + 1/4 cup
  • Milk – 1 cup
  • Assam tea (granules if available) – 2 heaped teaspoons
  • Sugar – to taste (I take 1 teaspoon per cup)
  • Ginger – 1/2 inch piece
  • Green Cardamom – 1

How To Make Masala Chai:

Put the milk and water in a pan. Bring it to a boil. Peel and crush the ginger and cardamom seeds, add them to the boiling water and milk mix. Lower the heat and simmer for two minutes.

Add to the pan the tea granules and sugar. Stir and simmer on low flame for 5-7 minutes, till the tea turns a beautiful brown and gives off a delicious spicy whiff. The extra 1/4th cup of water should evaporate by this time leaving the volume just right to fill two cups.

Strain and serve immediately with spicy snacks like samosas or bhakarwadifor the evening…

Masala Chai

…or alongside your breakfast bowl in the morning:

Indian Tea

In the pic above: masala chai to kickstart the day with sabziwale rajma.


  • You can add more spices according to taste – cloves, fennel seeds, pepper corns.
  • The duration of boiling may vary according to the type of tea. You’ll know if the tea is weak or strong from the color and smell. Adjust the timing accordingly.
  • If the milk is not fresh, add other spices early but add ginger towards the end. Fresh ginger can sometimes cause old milk to curdle.

2 Responses to “Masala Chai: Spiced Indian Tea”

  1. Ruth October 10, 2013 at 4:54 PM #

    Hi! i clicked over after reading your easy peasy curried peas post. (which i’m defnitely gonna try!)

    I’d like to know if theres a reason why you boil the milk and water with the spices first, then add the tea into the mixture.
    would there be a test difference if i boil the tea with spices first, then add milk later?
    (sorry if this sounds like a silly question!)

    • S October 10, 2013 at 9:32 PM #

      Hi Ruth! I feel that by adding the spices first, the flavors of the spices come out stronger. It may be a minor difference, but even so. :-)

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