Spicy Chai

by Talley

in Beverage,Quick

ChaiToday is cold and rainy in Seattle, a reminder that summer is over and winter is on its way.  There is an upside to this however: Chai is back in season on the houseboat.  Chai has become something of a morning ritual for us.   I will usually start the spices and the water simmering right before I jump in the shower, and then add the tea and milk when I get out and simmer until it’s strong enough.  I throw it in a travel thermos and when I get to work, I am always excited to sit down and drink it slowly, sip by tingling sip, out of a small cup.  The recipe has evolved a bit over the months, but this is where it stands today.

Chai SpicesI make no claims on the authenticity on this recipe, though I have looked into various recipes and found that this suits my tastes just right.  I like a spicy chai.  I like to feel the ginger and pepper in my mouth, in addition to tasting it.  I have settled on this combination of spices as well (ginger, allspice, star anise, clove, black pepper, cardamom,  orange peel, cinnamon), though you will find other recipes that add things like nutmeg or anise seed, and remove ingredients like pepper, orange peel, or allspice.  The amount of milk and sugar will vary from recipe to recipe as well; I like my chai on the sweet side.  You are encouraged to play with ratios until you get the level of spice, sweetness, and creaminess that you prefer.

Chai Spices

Brooke Bond

I use Brooke Bond Red Label tea for my chai. You can usually find it at asian or middle eastern markets or online. If you can’t find it, I have also had great success with good loose leaf Assam black tea.  In that case, crumble the tea leaves in your fingers before adding to the pot.

Assam Black Tea

A note about the ginger: Because it can be hard to have fresh ginger around the house at all times, I have tried using dried ginger with excellent results.  I actually feel that dried ginger gives a spicier chai, presumably due to the concentration of flavor, and is therefore desirable for me both in flavor, as well as ease of storage. Ginger is the most important variable in determining the spiciness, so start by changing that if you want to experiment!

Spicy Chai

  • 4 cups water
  • 1½ Tbsp fresh ginger, chopped or 1 Tbsp dried ginger
  • 2 tsp green cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1 tsp whole cloves, crushed
  • ½ – 1 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
  • ½ – 1 tsp dried orange peel
  • 4 berries, whole allspice
  • 1 – 2 whole star anise
  • 1 stick cinnamon, about 3-4 inches, broken into pieces
  • ½ cup milk (or half and half)
  • 1 Tbsp Brooke Bond red label tea, or Assam black tea
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp dark muscavado sugar, or dark brown sugar

Put the water in a saucepan and add crushed spices. Bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water comes to a boil (or even just before) turn the heat down very low, and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes.  This will affect the degree of flavor from the spices, so adjust according to your tastes.

Add the milk and the tea and let simmer again for about 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how strongly you want the tea to infuse.

Remove from heat, strain into a bowl, and add the sugar to taste. I prefer around 3 tablespoons for this recipe and this yields a mildly sweet chai. Alternatively, you can pour the chai into cups and let each person sweeten their own chai.

Serves 2 to 4

Another good idea is to make “packets of chai” with all of the (uncrushed) spices pre-measured and packaged into little plastic bags (with the tea in a separate enclosed bag).  Then just crush the spices briefly before adding them to the water.  These make for good little gifts, and are also great to save you some time in the morning.


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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Tokyo Terrace October 26, 2009 at 5:42 am

This is *exactly* what I needed this week! I have had two chai tea lattes from Starbuck’s and my pocket book is screaming at me to stop! I will definitely try this tomorrow. Thanks for the great recipe!


Talley October 26, 2009 at 8:08 am

I hope it works out for you! Definitely tinker with it and let us know your thoughts. This can be a great way to save some money. I usually buy the spices mentioned here in bulk online, which helps quite a bit (otherwise it could still get pricey). I have also been meaning to experiment with reusing the spices. I’ll let you know how that works.


Talley October 26, 2009 at 8:50 am

P.S. I hope you don’t mind, I stole a trick out of your playbook with the sushi roller as a background 🙂 I love how it looks.


Tokyo Terrace November 14, 2009 at 1:37 am

I don’t mind at all! I think it looks fabulous in these photos. It’s definitely a good way to add a different style to photos while still showcasing the food.


pat B October 26, 2009 at 7:56 am

It is difficult for me to admit that your sleuthing is better than my own. I’ve poured over the mountains of books that live here, the internet, and had admitted defeat in finding a “from scratch” chai tea recipe. You’ve made the winter bearable- ‘tho compared to your Seattle weather, I really have nothing to complain about on this bright, shiny, bluebird skied Mississippi morning! Thanks ever so much.


Jillian October 26, 2009 at 11:49 am

This looks excellent!! I will have to try it sometime. Although I’m not entirely sure of where to get some of the spices locally, so I suppose I’ll be doing a bit of sleuthing of my own!

I do love chai tea. My good old standby is Zhena’s Gypsy Cocnut Chai tea. If you haven’t tried it, I highly reccomend doing so!!


Talley October 26, 2009 at 11:53 am

Hi Jillian, if you are ok with buying in bulk, you can find great deals and a huge selection of spices online. I’ll keep an eye out for Zhena’s Chai.


MARYALICE November 13, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Maybe a dumb question, but how do you crush the spices? Mortar & pestle or something?


Talley November 13, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Yeah, I’ll typically give them a quick crush with a mortar and pestle… But I’m not trying to grind them or anything, just get some surface area exposed. Mainly for the cloves, the cardamom and the pepper. You could use a skillet on a counter top too. . .


Divina November 14, 2009 at 11:09 pm

I love the color of the chai and they are such a great comforting drink during the cooler weather. I do live in the tropics but the aroma and the taste is just breathtaking. I would adjust the ingredients according to my taste as ingredients differ in their strength of flavor. I might even use a different tea, whatever is available from where I live. You have gorgeous photos and your blog is adorable.


Naoe Suzuki January 15, 2010 at 12:04 pm

This is wonderful! And it’s very close to how I make my chai tea every morning. I’d love to include the link to this page in our newsletter. Lauren Mackler is writing a short article under “Recipe for Whole Living” and she’ll be talking about the benefit of taking time and making a great cup of tea. I’d love to be able to introduce your recipe/blog to our readers. Please contact me directly at my email above.


Mike Schwartz February 16, 2010 at 9:00 am

Fresh orange peel also works really well- I use about 2 tsp in this recipe. Julia and I are hooked!


Chris November 8, 2011 at 8:09 am

I’ve been looking for a good chai recipe for awhile. I tried a few online and it just did not work out well. I think the issue was the suggestion to add the tea and the spices simultaneously. This caused the black tea to overpower everything!

I will be trying your recipe (right here in Seattle!) this week and will let you know how it goes.



Fecklesslulu November 23, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Thank you for sharing your recipe! It was loved by all at our monthly Supper Club–this month featuring the flavors of India! I’ve since made a few tweaks to include more ginger and wee bit less star anise, but that’s just my personal preference.


Max May 3, 2012 at 1:14 pm

I did a variation on this recipe in order to make a ‘concentrate’. I let the spices simmer for about 3 hours. Then, turn the heat off and add a sweetener and the tea for about 20 minutes. Strain and you’re good to go. I bring a big jar to work along with some soymilk and have a cup everyday. It’s delicious!


Talley May 3, 2012 at 9:52 pm

great idea, thanks for sharing!


jaime May 9, 2012 at 9:00 am

Hi there,

I tried your recipe and I just have to comment…


Thank you so very much. This recipe is amazing. I did make 2 subs though, I wasn’t able to find the “1 Tbsp Brooke Bond red label tea, or Assam black tea” so I used Twinings Darjeeling Tea that I found at our local Albertsons & I also used Splenda Brown Sugar.

Thanks again,


Julia August 6, 2013 at 10:57 am

Very delicious, my husband and I are absolutely hooked on this chai! Thank you for sharing!

God bless,


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