I spent a month in 2014 opening the first pop-up restaurant in Kolkata, India. Even though time has passed, the experience of being immersed within their culture, religion, and simplicity will always have a place in my heart. Through this experience, I learned about the importance of humanity, spirituality, and the power of being in the present moment.
One of the best experiences was learning about chai tea: how to make it, how to serve it, and how it’s different in each region of India. Each region in India puts its own special twist on a classic chai tea by adding different spices or ground spices to create a special chai blend. In Kolkata, their signature is a few threads of saffron making it a masala chai blend since they add a number of spices to their chai masala.
What makes Kolkata so special is that by noon you can find smashed clay cups that were once filled with some of the best chai tea made, now in the gutter waiting for the rain to wash them back into the earth.
Before the sun rises in the morning, many potters are awake happily throwing new cups that are recycled from yesterday’s used disintegrated cups and tea makers brewing new batches of spiced chai.
I love their ability to create a sustainable purpose of quick consumption, and then destruction—each day focusing on making one little perfect clay cup of chai tea, without worrying about the thousands more they will make and smash.
Here’s how you can make the best chai tea at home in your favorite mug while easing your mind to be in the present moment.
Best Chai Tea: A Homemade Recipe
YIELDS: 2 CUPS
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
8 whole cloves
7 – 8 cardamom pods
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 inch of peeled and sliced fresh ginger
3 – 4 teaspoons of loose leaf black tea (or 4 – 5 tea bags)
1 cup of milk (or milk of choice)
Honey, to taste
Optional: 2 – 3 saffron threads per cup
Gently crush the black peppercorns, whole cloves, and cardamom pods. Transfer the ingredients to a medium saucepan and add cinnamon and ginger.
Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pot and reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove water from heat and add black tea to steep for 6-7 minutes, then strain.
Fill a mug with 2/3 of tea, and 1/3 of milk (or dairy-free alternative). Add a teaspoon of honey or to taste!
Optional: top each mug with a few threads of saffron for more flavor.
A FEW RECIPE NOTES:
You can use tea bags instead of loose tea. If you are sensitive to caffeine try rooibos chai—it’s caffeine free.
Instead of using ginger, try a whole turmeric root.
For more spice, try adding 1 piece of star anise.
If you’d like to enjoy your chai tea throughout the week, complete steps 1 – 3 and double the recipe. Let the tea cool. Then transfer to a pitcher to store in the refrigerator. When ready to use, warm one cup of tea and combine with milk and honey.
You can try turning this recipe into a chai latte by frothing the milk and adding the foam to the top.
If you like drinks iced try making a chai iced tea just by adding ice after the tea has cooled!
Recipe by guest contributor Lindsay Kinder, of Food La La.
Chai tea is a spicy tea that can help heart health, reduce blood sugar levels, and aid digestion to help with weight loss.
Three cups of chai tea are the equivalent to drinking one cup of coffee in terms of caffeine levels. Chai tea uses black tea making it rich in antioxidants and the spices in chai have been used to promote health for years.
Chai tea has a spicy flavor of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and anise. When the milk and sweetener are added it creates a creamy and sweet flavor.
Chai tea is typically prepared with black tea containing 40mg of caffeine. There are caffeine free chai tea options like rooibos chai.