ashley englishsmall measures

Small Measures: Homemade Chai

by Ashley

When I was living in Washington, D.C., in my early 20s, two tandem events turned me into a homemade chai tea-maker. First, I was working as a retail clerk at a natural foods store with a juice and coffee bar. In an attempt to curb my coffee consumption, for nearly each shift I worked I’d order a hot chai and take it back to my station. And although I’d drink it, I found it to be far, far too sweet, as it came from a prepared, pre-sweetened mix.

Second, and almost equally without fail (I can be quite the creature of habit), every Saturday or Sunday morning (whichever one I wasn’t working), I’d hop on my bike and head over to the Teaism in Dupont Circle. Devoted to the teas of the world and their attendant cuisines, I’d order a bowl of Irish oats, a ginger scone and a mug of the restaurant’s exquisitely delicious, perfectly spiced, not-too-sweet hot chai.

Tired of the cloyingly sweet pre-packaged version I was getting at work and inspired by the version offered at Teaism, I eventually started making my own chai. For today’s Small Measures, I’m sharing my time-honed recipe with you. It couldn’t be easier, can be sweetened to your preference and fills your kitchen with the most invigorating aromas. This time of year I find it especially delectable, as the spiciness of cardamom and clove are perfectly suited to the season. Warm in the hands and warm in the belly, this chai recipe is a keeper. — Ashley English

Read the full post after the jump . . .

A Perfect Mug of Chai

The Goods

  • 4 c. cold water
  • 4–6 cardamom pods* (depending how intense you like your chai)
  • 4–6 cloves (per above)
  • 4–6 black peppercorns (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, chopped (optional)
  • 4 tsp. black tea (I use Darjeeling. You can also use three tea bags.)
  • 4–6 tsp. raw honey (to your preference)
  • 1/4 c. milk

*You’ll need to bruise your cardamom pods before adding them to the water, in order to expose the seeds inside. I do this by hitting them with the back of a spoon. Once cracked open, place the whole thing into the pot — pod, seeds and all!

The Deal

1. Add water and spices to a medium-sized stainless-steel pot. Bring to a boil over high heat.

2. Reduce heat to low, place tea in a tea strainer and add to a pot along with honey and milk. Simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Remove from heat, cover and steep for 5 minutes longer.

4. Remove and compost tea, and pour chai in two large mugs. I like to leave the spices in, but you can discard them if you prefer.

5. Sip and smile!

What about you? Got any tried-and-true chai-making tips? I’d love to hear them. Otherwise, I’m off to warm my fingers, belly and soul with a hot mug of spicy chai!

Photos and styling by Jen Altman

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  • for those that have asked about the mugs, they’re actually from our personal collection. sorry! we love them. we’ve collected them over time from local potters, but i don’t have any specific names and the signature on the bottoms of the mugs isn’t really legible.

  • Loved this post! Great tip about crushing the cardomom pods with a spoon – I usually try and open them with my nails but it’s so fiddly! Gonna go make some chai now – it’s the only thing that can warm me up when it’s so chilly outside. thanks for sharing! saritaagerman.blogspot.it

  • Also, I liked the basil and mint comments – I might try those at some point too. I usually make chai using rooibos tea – because it’s sweet anyway, it means you don’t have to use as much sugar.

  • I love homemade chai masala! I use a similar recipe from BUST magazine a few years ago that uses cinnamon sticks and a bay leaf in the spice mix as well. I often use maple syrup to sweeten it instead of honey as well – makes my recipe rather New England-y!

    To the reader asking how long this will keep – if you want to make a big batch, I would try freezing it!

  • I love this tea from the supermarket, wow just by the recipe I know that your tea done at home is amazing. Thank you for sharing I will try this tomorrow.

  • Really enjoyed reading your story – it was memorable and painted a picture. I LOVE Chai lattes, but haven’t tried to make any homemade, but you’ve inspired me to try! Thank you! :) P.S. LOVE your mugs – beautiful pottery!!!

  • Tried this recipe but did not turn out well. Too watery and kind of dark color as if not enough milk. Tried w 2 cups water and 1/2 cup milk still watery and dark color. Your pic looks milky. What am I doing wrong?

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