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The Complete Guide to Masala Chai

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The Complete Guide to Masala Chai

The secret to a spectacular masala chai recipe? A strong, black Assam tea as the base. From there, the options are as limitless as the spices in your kitchen! To help you unleash your cup creativity, we gathered our favorite black tea chai recipes: one using our Himalayan Chai blend, one made from scratch with fresh spices, and two concocted for craft cocktails.

A note on vernacular: in India, chai always has milk and spices. So the word “chai” covers all the versions we refer to here in the US, including masala chai and a chai latte. Also, it’s usually served with more than a generous spoonful of sugar and piping hot in a thin-walled metal cup that requires balance to avoid burning your fingers. It’s best enjoyed at a roadside stall during a winding trip through the mountains.

Masala Chai Recipe With Our Blend

Cup of masala chai next to loose-leaf chai blend on a tray

The quickest route to sweet, spicy heaven is through a pre-made black tea blend. This allows you to save time on prep and relieves the pressure of getting the ingredient ratios just so. Our Himalayan Chai blend was designed with that convenience in mind, combining strong black tea with finely tuned proportions of dried ginger, fresh black pepper, and crushed cardamom. The result is a vibrant, fiery cup that will leave you invigorated.

In this recipe, we depart from our standard steeping practices–adding the tea blend to cold water, then bringing it all to boil. Typically, we only suggest adding tea after the water has reached the steeping temperature, to prevent oversleeping. However, when making chai, where the goal is to extract as much flavor as possible before adding milk, it works well to give the leaf and spices more time with the water.

Ingredients (makes 1 mug)

  • 8oz cold water
  • 0.5 Tbsp. of Himalayan Chai blend
  • 4 oz. milk (or milk alternative)
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar (or sweetener of choice)

Directions

  1. Put water in a small saucepan.
  2. Add Himalayan Chai blend to cold water and cover.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil.
  4. Boil for 5 minutes, then turn heat to low.
  5. Stir in milk and sweetener, simmer for 2 minutes.
  6. Strain out tea and spices and enjoy!

Masala Chai Recipe From Scratch

Chai spices and ingredients on a wooden block

Nothing delivers explosive flavor and bursting aroma better than fresh spices. Sure, it takes an extra 15 minutes to make your own chai spice, but the fragrance that fills the house is worth it! The two big differences between this recipe and the previous one are:

1) Separating the spices from the tea. Here, we add the spices to the cold water first, bring them to a boil, then add the tea. The result is a more balanced cup where the tea leaves’ flavor is better expressed.

2) Introducing cinnamon. Our favorite spice has a tendency to dominate blends, but works superbly when added as a stick. And bonus points for how attractive it looks!

Ingredients (Makes 2 mugs)

  • 1.5 cups cold water⁠
  • 0.5 inch fresh ginger (roughly cut, unpeeled is fine) ⁠
  • 3 cardamom pods, crushed ⁠
  • 0.5 tsp. black peppercorns⁠
  • 1 inch dried cinnamon stick⁠
  • 2 Tbsp. Assam Black Tea
  • 0.5 cup milk (or mylk alternative)⁠
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar (or sweetener of choice)⁠

Directions

  1. Combine water with ginger, cardamom pods, black peppercorns, and cinnamon stick in a saucepan.
  2. Bring to boil and keep at boil for 5 minutes.
  3. Reduce heat, then add Assam Black tea. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Add milk and sugar, simmer for 3 minutes.
  5. Strain out tea and spices and serve!⁠


Two Chai Cocktails: Hot + Cold

Halfway through our second COVID winter, we got to tinkering with our regular cups and brewed up two luscious chai-based cocktails. One is served hot à la Irish whiskey, with a lovely layer of whipped coconut cream topped with black lava sea salt (this topping is inspired by Thinking Tree Spirits), that gives it all sorts of sweet and umami goodness. The other is served cold on ice, and is our riff on a classic Old Fashioned. While the ingredients are very similar, the slight adjustments give you two distinct experiences.

Fun fact: There are two ways to spell whisk(e)y. In the United States and Ireland it is generally spelled with an ‘e’ (whiskey), and in Scotland and Canada without an ‘e’ (whisky).

Hot Masala Chai Cocktail Recipe

Top view of chai cocktail, with coconut whipped cream and cinnamon

Ingredients (Makes 1 x 6-oz. cocktail)

  • 1 can coconut cream, refrigerated overnight
  • 5 oz. water
  • 2 Tbsp. Himalayan Chai
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1.5 oz. whiskey or bourbon (we used Suntory Toki in ours)
  • 4 dashes bitters (we used aromatic bitters in ours)
  • Garnish ideas: Black lava salt (or any coarse salt that strikes your fancy), ground cinnamon, and/or cinnamon stick

Directions

  1. Refrigerate canned coconut cream overnight (without shaking or removing from the can).
  2. Place your mixer whisks and mixing bowl into the freezer and let chill for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Bring water to boil and steep chai and cinnamon stick in boiling water for 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add sugar, stir until dissolved.
  5. While chai is brewing, make the coconut whipped cream. Open can of chilled coconut cream, without shaking or tipping. Carefully spoon out the thick layer of coconut cream (usually this is at the top of the can, with liquid on the bottom), and transfer to a chilled mixing bowl. Using one whisk attachment, beat the coconut cream on medium speed for 2-4 minutes,  until light and fluffy and peaks form. Set aside.
  6. Combine your steeped chai, whiskey/bourbon, and bitters. Stir well, and pour into glass.
  7. Top with a dollop of the whipped cream, sprinkle with a little ground cinnamon and sea salt (grind this one if too chunky), and add the cinnamon stick on top, if desired.

Pro tip: As the cream slowly sinks into the cocktail, it’ll turn it into a creamy beverage. The gentle flavor of the coconut cream complements the rest of the ingredients beautifully, making a soothing and warming drink. Adjust the number of dollops as desired!

Masala Fashioned Cocktail Recipe

Chai Old fashioned cocktail in a glass cup

Ingredients (Makes 1 x 6-oz. cocktail)

  • 4 oz. water
  • 2 Tbsp. Himalayan Chai
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar 
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 oz. whiskey or bourbon (we used Suntory Toki in ours)
  • 4 dashes of bitters (we used aromatic/old fashioned bitters in ours)
  • Garnish: Slice of lemon or orange, cinnamon stick

Directions

  1. Bring water to boil and steep chai and cinnamon stick in boiling hot water for 4-5 minutes.
  2. Strain, add sugar, and stir until dissolved.
  3. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake until chilled, strain into a glass full of ice, and garnish with your choice of lemon/orange slice, and/or cinnamon stick. Cheers!

We hope these four masala chai recipes serve as a jumping off point for unleashing your cup creativity. Did you adapt the recipe when making your own Indian chai at home? If so, let us know in the comments below!

WANT A PREMADE BLEND TO MAKE CHAI AT HOME? 

Want to explore a few other tea recipes? 

 

Four Masala Chai Recipes Pin

 

 

Blog Author:

Raj Vable, Founder of Young Mountain Tea

Raj Vable, Founder

He has been confounded by the leaf since his first transcendental encounter with white tea in 2010. Three years later, he started Young Mountain Tea to bridge his budding tea obsession with his interest in traveling in the mountains and previous experience creating job opportunities in rural India. He revels in working across cultures and can be regularly found trying to get the rest of the team on board with another outlandish tea project. His favorite teas remain white, and he’s always searching for the next cup of magic. 

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