How to Make Homemade Masala Chai

Masala chai from a scratch guide

There's no better feeling than knowing you can enjoy your favourite tea any time you want. Masala is one of the top teas to enjoy during cooler weather. It's warming, indulgent, creamy, and a favourite companion to a warm blanket, and a good book or a movie. This authentic homemade masala chai will take only 10 minutes to make and if you don't know which spices to use, we are including a list of 18 ingredients.

What is masala chai?

Masala chai is an Indian spiced with . It's made with strong black tea leaves, spices, milk, sugar and water. It can contain different ratios of water, milk and spices. No two cups of masala chai will be the same, but any cup of masala chai will have a creamy and luxurious texture and richness. That's why to make one at home it's not enough to simply steep some tea leaves and add spices.

Which spices are essential for making masala chai?

You can make masala chai using only one, or a dozen of different spices. The more spices don't imply a better flavour, so if you are new to chai, start with a few of the most common ingredients.

  1. Green Cardamom – Cardamom is a spice from the ginger botanical family. If you need to choose only one spice for making masala chai, cardamom is a perfect choice. It's strong and intense and will give more spiciness to masala chai than, for example, cinnamon. It's always best to use whole cardamom pods than the powder. Always crush them before use.
  2. Cinnamon – Cinnamon is the second most important ingredient for making chai. There are many types of cinnamon, but the most popular for chai is the Ceylon cinnamon. Ceylon Cinnamon is milder than the “regular” Chinese cinnamon.
  3. Cloves – Cloves are another warming and aromatic spice often used for masala chai. Cloves are a common ingredient in many western spice blends such as pumpkin pie spice or gingerbread spice mix.

You can make the most basic delicious homemade masala chai using these three spices only.

Masala chai spices
© All That Tea

 

Additional ingredients for masala chai

Other ingredients you can use:

  1. Black cardamom – it has a stronger, smoky aroma, and it's not a replacement for green cardamom, but rather an additional ingredient.
  2. Fennel seeds – fennel seeds add sweetness and a mild flavour.
  3. Star anise – a very common ingredient in masala chai, adds sweetness and flavour.
  4. Anise seed – similar to star anise, but with a sharper flavour.
  5. Fenugreek – more common in dishes than in chai masala, fenugreek will give sweet and nutty flavour.
  6. Black pepper – black peppercorns are a common ingredient, especially in pre-made masala chai blends.
  7. Ginger – ginger is usually used fresh or dried. Fresh ginger will give a distinctive, strong flavour, so dried ginger may be a better choice if you are new to masala chai.
  8. Rose petals – rose petals may add a floral note and they blend well with other spices.
  9. Tulsi – Tulsi or Holy Basil is an adaptogenic herb that's often steeped pure. It has a distinctive herbaceous flavour and may be used in masala chai blends too.
  10. Vanilla – vanilla is not a traditional ingredient, but it's sometimes added to pre-made blends. It goes well with other spices and adds sweetness to tea.
  11. Chocolate chunks – Chocolate chunks are not an authentic ingredient for making chai, but they may add a very delicious chocolaty flavour that blends well with spices. If you use them, add them just before straining the tea.
  12. Indian bay leaf – Although not commonly used, Indian bay leaf has a flavour more similar to cinnamon and cloves. It's often used in Indian cuisine.
  13. Chilli – small chilli pods will add a very spicy touch, so use them sparingly.
  14. Cumin seeds – Cumin seeds or Jeera may add an intense, nutty flavour.
  15. Nutmeg – with a warming and nutty flavour, nutmeg is a great ingredient for masala chai. Use sparingly.
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What is the right ratio of spices?

There's no proper ratio of spices to make a perfect masala chai. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when making your tea.

  1. Adding not too much or not enough

The right number of spices will depend on your preferences. Adding 1-2 cardamom pods, a couple of cloves and about an inch of cinnamon stick will not make your tea too spicy. On the contrary, it will be only gently spiced. But adding a teaspoon of each spice (or any!) will overpower the flavour. Always start with only a few ingredients and build up your recipe until you get the perfect flavour.

  1. Choosing fresh spices

Any spice you are adding to tea should be fresh. Fresh means that it didn't lose its flavour or scent. While spices don't have an actual expiry date, they will lose potency over time. Whole spices are likely to last longer than powders. Fresh spices will often be more aromatic and offer more in-depth than powders.

  1. Crushing them before making the tea

Crushing spices using pestle and mortar is an essential step in making masala chai flavourful. Using one crushed cardamom pod will release much more flavour than using two uncrushed pods. Always crush spices right before using them.

Masala chai from a scratch
© All That Tea

Which tea is the best for making masala chai?

The best tea for making masala chai will not necessarily be the most expensive, or the highest quality tea. The best tea will be the one that infuses into a strong and bold infusion with darker red brown colour. This usually means teas with smaller broken leaves, CTC teas or tea dust. When talking about tea, the term lower quality usually implies the grade of tea leaves. This means that the tea you choose should still be enjoyable on its own, fresh and not stale, but it would probably taste better with some condiments than pure.

Test brew your tea first. If the colour is orange or orange-brown, it will likely not be the best tea for making chai.

Assam teas are perfect for making masala chai, as most of them are available as tea dust or broken leaf and are strong and bold enough. Other great options are Chinese Keemun black tea with smaller broken leaves, or Kenyan black tea.

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Can I use decaf or caffeine free teas instead of regular black tea?

Yes, you can make masala chai using decaf or caffeine free teas. Assam is often widely available in decaf style with almost no difference in flavour. Red rooibos is a great alternative if you want a naturally caffeine free tea. Rooibos will never become bitter, no matter how long you steep it for. You can follow the recipe below with both decaf and caffeine-free teas.

Are there different methods to make homemade masala chai tea?

There are many methods you can use to make chai tea, but all authentic chai teas are made similarly – by simmering tea leaves and spices over a low heat and adding milk and a sweetener.

Find out what exactly is the difference between steeping and simmering tea leaves and spices here.

To make masala chai, you will need a clean small saucepan that's easy to clean. Another great step to include is gently toasting spices over high heat before adding water. This will make them more aromatic. You will also need a kitchen strainer and a serving cup. If you want to incorporate a pulling method, pouring it from one saucepan to another will be easier than pouring the tea from one cup into another.

Which milk is the best for making masala chai?

The best milk will be whole cow's milk with a high fat content (over 3%). It will give a nicer texture and a better mouthfeel than skimmed milk. Milk with intense flavour such as goat's milk may not be the best choice for making masala chai. You can use a milk alternative but be careful as some milks will separate and some will thicken. Make a smaller cup of pure chai first to test out the milk.

Which sweetener should I use?

For making masala chai from a scratch, the best sweetener is regular white granulated sugar. You can replace it with different sugar, including brown or coconut sugar, or you can add a sugar alternative. However, regular sugar will not only balance the flavour, but it will also improve the texture. Keep that in mind when using a sugar alternative. If you are adding honey, it may be better to let your tea cool down first.

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Need a perfect sweetener for black tea? Check out this Demerara Chai Simple Syrup recipe.

Can I make chai tea and store it in the fridge?

Yes, it's possible to make chai tea for later, but the freshly made cup will always taste the best. Once you learn make it, preparation time will significantly reduce. 10 minutes will be enough to gather all the ingredients, crush them and simmer them into a perfect cup of chai. If you store it in the fridge, you can reheat it in a microwave or in a saucepan or serve chilled over ice.

Basic Homemade Masala Chai from a Scratch

To make masala chai from a scratch at home, gather all the ingredients first and gently crush the spices. Have a saucepan ready and measure the right amount of water and milk. Once you learn how to make it, you won't need to measure the ingredients anymore, because you will recognize if your tea needs more water, milk, or sugar. Start with a few spices and add more when making it next time. It's always good to make notes on the ingredients you used, to know what to change next time.

Don't have enough time to make a homemade masala chai? These are 7 different ways you can make it at home.

masala chai from a scratch
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Simple Masala Chai from a Scratch

Basic easy recipe to make a creamy authentic masala chai
Prep Time2 minutes
Cook Time8 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: , Black Tea, Chai

Equipment

  • 2 small saucepans
  • Kitchen sifter

Ingredients

  • 2 heaped teaspoons of black tea leaves
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 inch of cinnamon
  • 1 star anise
  • 250 ml of water
  • 150 ml of milk
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar

Instructions

  • Crush all spices using a pestle and mortar. Do not powder them, just break them into smaller pieces.
  • Add spices into a small saucepan and turn on the heat to medium. Once they start releasing aroma, add water and bring it to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to medium low and add tea leaves. Let them simmer for 2-3 minutes. Both tea leaves and simmering will reduce the total water content. If the heat is higher, the water will evaporate faster.
  • Add milk and sugar and bring it to a boil again over medium heat.
  • Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Strain the tea into a clean saucepan. Now use the pulling method to aerate the tea. Pour it from one saucepan into another from a slight height several times until small bubbles form.
  • Pour it into a cup and serve immediately.
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