Authentic Homemade Indian Chai Tea Recipe - Foodess (2024)

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By Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD

4.67 from 12 votes

Nov 29, 2016, Updated Apr 01, 2024

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A truly authentic Indian Chai tea recipe, as made for me by my lovely Indian mother-in-law. Tea the Indian way is rich and milky, deeply coloured, steaming hot, flavourful and sweet. You’ll love this homemade masala chai from scratch with warming spices like whole cinnamon.

Authentic Homemade Indian Chai Tea Recipe - Foodess (2)

Table of Contents

  • What is Chai Tea?
  • What is Chai Tea Made of?
  • How to Make Chai Tea at Home
  • Chai Tea Spices
  • What Tea Should You Use to Make Chai Tea at Home?
  • How to Sweeten Chai
  • What Milk Should I Use for Chai?
  • Is Chai Tea High in Caffeine?
  • Are There Health Benefits to Drinking Chai?
  • Authentic Homemade Indian Chai Recipe

What is Chai Tea?

The pale tea that North Americans typically drink is nothing close to the tea drunk by millions of Indians.

Indian tea, called chai in hindi, is rich and milky, deeply coloured, steaming hot, and boldly flavourful with a definite need for sugar to offset the toasty bitterness.

The word chai just means tea. Chai = tea.

If you ask for chai tea in India, you’re asking for tea tea andyour dorky adorableness will getlaughed at a little bit.

Masala chai, on the other hand, is what you’re probably aiming for – it’s the spiced version. Masala = spices. When we think of chai in North America, we are probably thinking of masala chai.

If you visit India, you’ll see chai-wallas on every corner, calling out “chai! chai! chai!” and pouring steaming tea from a height (called “pulling” the chai), allowing it to cool a bit as it streams into little metal cups.

What is Chai Tea Made of?

What I love so much about it is that the tea is actually brewed in milk and water in a saucepan on the stove.

Because of this, it stays piping hot until ready to be drunk, rather than cooling down as it steeps in a teapot.

Authentic chai tea made from:

  • Water
  • Milk (in a ratio of roughly one part milk to two parts water
  • Lots of tea leaves or tea bags for strong infusion
  • Plenty of sugar
  • Optional addition of spices
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How to Make Chai Tea at Home

Despite what Starbucks would have you believe with their chai tea lattes, the real homemade chai tea recipe doesn’t start with a syrup and it’s not super heavily spiced.

A “recipe” is not really necessary; it’s really the method that matters.

The most important key for flavour is to make really good strong tea without letting it get bitter from oversteeping.

Authentic Homemade Indian Chai Tea Recipe - Foodess (4)

Here’s how to make really good cup of chai:

  1. Bring water, milk and spices to a simmer in a small saucepan on the stove (adding the spices from the start gives them plenty of time to infuse).
  2. Reduce heat and add in black tea to brew.
  3. Wait for tea to steep (don’t boil it at this point or the tea releases too many tannins – those bitter compounds that make your mouth feel dry).
  4. Strain the warm spiced mixture into a mug; this will hold back the whole spices and tea leaves.
  5. Stir sugar into your chai and sweeten to taste.

Scale the recipe measurements below to the number of servings you need.

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Chai Tea Spices

If you love the flavour of North American coffee-shop chai lattes, you can buy tea masala at any Indian grocer, which is just a ground mixes of sweet spices.

I personally find those spice blends usually taste dusty. I prefer to infuse my chai with fresh whole spices instead.

Some of the most common spices (masala) used in Indian chai include:

  • cinnamon sticks (or 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon)
  • fresh ginger
  • whole cloves
  • green cardamom pods (or a pinch of ground cardamom)
  • nutmeg
  • allspice
  • star anise
  • fennel
  • black peppercorns

My personal favourite spice blend includes fresh ginger root, whole cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks and sometimes fennel. You can use any or all of them to make your own flavour.

I typically just toss in a few cardamom pods and fennel seeds. Warming and delicious.

If you don’t have whole spices, you can use ground. Start with a bit and work up in quantity, as the intensity will vary.

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What Tea Should You Use to Make Chai Tea at Home?

I love loose-leaf black tea leaves like assam or darjeeling, and the flavour is incredible in spiced tea.

  • This Tata Black Tea is the brand of premium Assam loose leaf tea my mother-in-law brings mr from India (and I can also find it at our Indian grocery stores).
  • For the most part at home, however, I use whatever black tea I can easily find at the grocery store. For me, that is basic Tetley Orange Pekoe.
  • If you are avoiding caffeine, you could make it with decaf black tea (but I find the flavour is super lacklustre) or a rooibos tea.

How to Sweeten Chai

For authenticity, it should be generously sweetened.

I’ve seen recipes call for 1 tbsp sugar per cup. I don’t measure, but I probably use 1 1/2-2 tsp in a coffee mug. Itshould have a similar sweetness to hot cocoa.

Just avert your eyes and keep on spooning.

(It won’t have more sugar than a Starbucks anyway, you’ll just be aware instead of ignorant.)

To sweeten chai, you can use:

  • Plain granulated white sugar
  • Natural cane sugar (my fav, because it adds rich flavour)
  • Maple syrup or honey (not my preference, because those flavours are bolder and don’t belong)
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What Milk Should I Use for Chai?

You have options here:

  • Plain whole cow’s milk is the authentic standard.
  • In parts of India where fresh milk isn’t as easily available, powdered whole milk is used instead. I really actually love the flavour of this, too, and the concentrated creamy milkiness it imparts. Try it if you ever get the chance.
  • If you don’t do dairy milk, you are welcome to use your favourite substitute, however I don’t personally like the flavour of most almond, soy, or coconut milk alternatives.
  • The only milk substitute that I enjoy the texture and flavour of is Earth’s Own Barista Oat Milk (that’s an Amazon link for a visual product reference but it appears they only sell it by the case).

Is Chai Tea High in Caffeine?

Yes! Chai tea is brewed strongly with lots of black tea. However coffee contains nearly twice the amount of caffeine in tea.

Furthermore, black tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid with therapeutic calming properties.

I am a Registered Dietitian and I actually take L-theanine as a supplement for stress and sleep.

Because of this compound, the overall caffeine feeling in chai is a less-aggressive buzz than a cup of chai coffee.

Keep in mind that the more tea bags you use, the longer you steep it, and the more you stir it all make for a higher-caffeine chai.

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Are There Health Benefits to Drinking Chai?

Wondering what chai tea can do for you or if it’s healthier than drinking coffee? Well, masala chai infused with spices may offer some impressive health benefits. Spices like black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon,and clove have shown biological activity in preventing disease.

There is good evidence to show that spices can reduce inflammation, and chronic inflammation is related to so many illnesses.

So drink up, chai lovers! Happy cozy-weather sipping. (And thanks, Amma, for all the tea and love.)

Other Chai Recipes you will love

  • Karak Chai (Adarsh’s Middle-Eastern obsession)
  • Chai Coffee Recipe
  • Iced Chai Latte Recipe
  • Chai Concentrate Recipe

My Indian Husband’s Favorite Recipes:

  • Easy Homemade Butter Paneer
  • Flaky Homemade Potato Samosas or Chicken Samosas
  • Best-Ever Creamy Butter Chicken (one of the most popular recipes on the website!)
  • The Butter Naan Recipe that went totally viral
  • Adarsh’s Chicken Korma that he says will change your life.
  • Creamy Madras Lentils (the ultimate vegetarian comfort food)
  • Amma’s special Masoor Dal recipe

Authentic Homemade Indian Chai Tea Recipe - Foodess (9)


4.67 from 12 votes

Authentic Homemade Indian Chai

By: Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD

An actually-authentic Indian Chai tea recipe, as made for me by my lovely Indian mother-in-law. Make perfect chai at home using this method.

Prep Time: 1 minute minute

Cook Time: 5 minutes minutes

Total Time: 6 minutes minutes

Servings: 1


  • 8 oz water
  • 4 oz whole milk
  • granulated sugar to taste (about 2 heaped teaspoons per serving, traditionally)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of black tea empty out tea bags to make a tablespoon if you don’t buy loose leaves

Add any (or all) of the following:

  • 4 cardamom pods smashed with side of a knife
  • small piece of cinnamon stick
  • ¼ ” coin of fresh ginger
  • pinch of fennel seeds about 10 seeds


  • Bring water and milk to a simmer with desired spices in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to lowest settingand add tea. Steep until tea takes on a deep, pinky-tan colour, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain into a cup and stir in sugar to taste.



Calories: 162kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 14mg | Sodium: 47mg | Potassium: 521mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 20g | Vitamin A: 1474IU | Vitamin C: 20mg | Calcium: 186mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Leave a comment!

Authentic Homemade Indian Chai Tea Recipe - Foodess (2024)


What is authentic chai made of? ›

Chai can include a number of different spices. Cardamom is the most common ingredient, followed by some mixture of cinnamon, ginger, star anise and cloves. Pepper, coriander, nutmeg and fennel are also used, but they are slightly less common. Every family has a blend to suit its tastes.

What is the difference between masala chai and regular chai tea? ›

' While both chai tea and masala chai are made with black tea, their main difference is the spices used in their preparation. Chai tea is essentially just black tea with milk and sugar, while masala chai is prepared with a blend of spices that typically includes cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and black pepper.

How is chai tea served in India? ›

Chai is usually served with biscuits, rusk, Onion Pakora, Samosa and Sandwiches. Every Indian family may have their own recipe to make Masala Tea.

Why is a dirty chai called a dirty chai? ›

A Dirty Chai is a mix of coffee and chai tea, named “dirty” chai because of the addition of coffee muddying up the color of the tea. It is usually made with a concentrated chai tea, a shot of espresso, and steamed milk or cream (this is, therefore, a latte).

Is masala tea the same as chai tea? ›

The main difference between chai and masala tea is the addition of spices. Chai is black tea and hot milk, while Masala tea will combine black tea, milk and a few spices. With chai growing in popularity, Western tea drinkers have begun referring to milk tea as chai tea or chai latte.

What is the difference between Indian chai and American chai? ›

Chai directly translates to tea, causing the name to be a bit repetitive (tea tea). Other differences include the type of milk used. In India, whole milk is typically used, while in America, anything from skim milk to non-dairy milk can be seen incorporated into chai drinks.

Is Starbucks chai the same as Indian chai? ›

While the Starbucks version may capture some of the aromatic essence of chai, it does not provide the complexity and depth of flavor found in traditional chai. The use of a standardized concentrate overlooks the variations in spice blends and preparation methods that contribute to the richness of authentic chai.

Is it OK to drink Indian chai tea everyday? ›

Black tea varieties, like chai tea, are considered safe for drinking daily. But black tea has a range of caffeine, from 30 to 50 milligrams, so it's best to limit daily tea drinking.

Do Indians drink chai without milk? ›

In India, the practice of drinking pure black tea without milk and spices is relatively common and is often referred to as "plain tea" or "black tea." While chai (spiced tea with milk) is widely popular in India, especially in regions like North India, there are still many places where people prefer their tea without ...

What do Indians eat with chai tea? ›

Samosas, chaat, and pakora are common Indian tea time snacks when friends and family gather over steaming cups of chai (which simply means “tea”).

Can I use garam masala for masala chai? ›

If you ask one hundred Indian home chefs for their favorite garam masala mix for spicy chai, you'll probably get 101 different recipes. That's because everyone has their favorite spices and masala chai lovers like to add those they love in their favorite tea drink.

Why is masala chai so good? ›

Chai Tea can help improve your health because of its rich antioxidant content and ability to boost immunity and prevent the risk of cardiovascular diseases like stroke. Moreover, Chai Tea can help fight colds, reduce inflammation, improve digestion and the quality of your skin.

How to make masala tea Sanjeev Kapoor? ›

Put green cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves, black peppercorns and fennel seeds in a mixer jar and grind to a fine powder. Crush ginger in a mortar with a pestle. Heat 2 cups water in a pan till it comes to a boil, add tea leaves, crushed ginger, sugar and 1 teaspoon ground masala, mix well and let it boil for 3-4 minutes.

Is chai traditionally sweetened? ›

But the traditional ingredients of a spiced tea blend usually include black tea mixed with strong spices, like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger and black peppercorns. The spiced tea mixture is typically brewed strong with milk and sweetened with sugar or honey.

Is Starbucks chai latte real chai? ›

Starbucks Chai Tea Latte: A Simplified Version

To ensure consistency and streamline the production process, Starbucks uses a pre-made chai concentrate for their Chai Tea Latte. This concentrate contains a combination of spices, sweeteners, and flavorings, offering a quick and convenient solution for mass production.

What does real chai tea taste like? ›

Chai tea is one of the tastiest beverages around! It has a wonderfully warm, spicy flavor that is incredibly inviting. Chai tea has a sweet, spiced flavor that is similar to black tea with notes of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, black pepper, and clove. It is typically creamy and has a subtle sweetness.

Why is chai not vegan? ›

Chai. Chai is usually made with black tea leaves (but sometimes rooibos), loose spices, milk, and a sweetener. That means this tea blend is rarely vegan, unless you prepare it yourself and omit the milk and sweet element (or replace them with vegan ingredients).


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