Masala Chai

I had my first sip of chai in 2007 on NYC’s lower east side, at the original location of Doughnut Plant (back when there was tiny location which closed when the doughnuts sold out, which was around 2pm tops), and was smitten from the first sip. Every other chai afterwards was unacceptable—either too wimpy on the spices, or worse, from a prepackaged container with a chemical aftertaste. So, I would find myself hopping the metro when the craving for a cup hit. 

Soon after I watched a mesmerizing video of a street vendor making chai in India. The urge to finally make it at home had been born. Doughnut Plant is now much further than a 15-minute trip on the F train. In fact, it’s closed right now due to Covid-19.

As I dream of a world where we can hug friends and plan get togethers, I’m thankful for memories of when the world felt less topsy turvy, and a sip of this milky spiced tea reminds me of sunny mornings running up the steps, out of the Delancey Street train station to enjoy freshly made doughnuts and a hot cup of chai.

Visit me here for a recipe to make Chai White Chocolate Scones.

Masala Chai

Serves: 2 liters

Ingredients

  • ½ teaspoon cardamom (or 2 pods, crushed)
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, pounded (no need to peel)
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons black tea leaves (I use darjeeling)
  • ⅔ cup sugar, or more to taste (feel free to sub with desired amount of maple syrup or omit sweetener)
  • 4 cups milk, regular or non-dairy

Instructions

  1. Combine spices and water in a medium pot. Bring to a boil. Add tea leaves and sugar. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Rest a fine mesh sieve atop a funnel over clean glass mason jars (or any jars available). Pour tea through sieve, filling jars halfway. Discard any remaining solids.
  3. Top jars off with milk. Allow to cool completely before storing in the fridge. Chai may be enjoyed cold or warmed over low heat in a small pot on the stovetop.

3 Comments

  • asha

    Hmm, I wonder if you make it differently in the recipe than in the picture (where it looks like the milk is already added before straining). When my father taught me to make it, you boil the loose tea with the spices and once you have a nice active boil going, you then add milk and then let it almost scald, then take it off the heat (my mother has yelled at him about 238 thousand times because this has resulted in boiled over tea on the stovetop in his more hasty moments), then strain into cups. To this day, he’s offended by black tea served in a teacup that is then diluted with cold milk.

  • Jennie

    You are very accurate in noticing that, Asha! The photo is of an older way I used to make chai just as you mentioned, adding the milk to the boiling tea. Back then we used to have no issues with dairy in our family but the last few years we’re a whole milk & dairy-free household, so it’s easier to brew the tea and spices and then split between jars to top off one with whole milk and the other with macadamia milk (or any other non-dairy milk). From there, I reheat the chai in a small pot when ready to drink.
    Also, can I tell you that after all the years of reading your comments, your email ALWAYS makes me smile and think of Mikey. He often sang that song. Thanks for the bright spot of memories. xo-jennie

  • Asha

    Wow, thank you, Jennie. In these often bleak times, how lovely to hear that something as simple as an old song can connect in a positive way. And thanks for all of your writing over the years; it has meant so much to me!

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