Masala Chai

I truly believe cinnamon makes you slap happy. This is how I feel every morning just after having my fix of chai. It's the spices in chai that make it extra special. And this is the reason it is named Masala Chai in India, masala means "spice" in Hindi.

In India, they believe cinnamon has ayurvedic properties (health benefits), which is why you'll find a lot of bark cinnamon used in Indian cuisine. It's particularly used in the beginning of cooking, so that the cinnamon has a chance to infuse the oil and permeate its flavor throughout the entire dish. It does the same thing for chai. You'll also find green cardamom pods in masala chai (think of this as India's answer to lavender), plus a few baby cloves, and one gorgeous star anise. Star anise imparts a licorice note to whatever you're cooking, but in North India, where my parents are from, I've learned that it really isn't used much in savory dishes.

I really do love Starbucks, but I laughed out loud when I read "chai" on their menu. Well, technically they're called "chai tea lattes", and the reason I found it funny is because it has a much deeper significance in my home.

Indians became dependent on chai many, many, years ago. It's this drink, that is made three to four times a day on my mother's stove top, and in a culinary sense, it's the glue in our family. It always lures me to the family room where I'll find mom and dad enjoying a cup, so I often sit down to sip and chat with them. If a friend come over, my mother asks, "Would you like some Chai?". For Indians, even the thought of tea time is customary.

It's safe to say that this is the one thing I will never give up. And it tastes best with whole milk. I'm not apologizing for that either. I love nutrition and I also love helping people discover the positivity in it, but I will never make this with low-fat milk. This is where you tell yourself that clichéd line, “All things in moderation”.
Sometimes you just have to feed your soul, and you should. But notice that the serving size is less than half a cup, and this is actually quite normal. We always drank chai out of miniature China cups back in India at my grandma's home. Out of fine quality china cups actually. She was very particular about that. Why? I have no idea. But I do know you're going to love this.

Masala Chai

Serves 2


3/4 cup cold filtered water
2 1/2 teaspoons loose Orange Pekoe tea (We swear by "Red Label")
2 1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar (dark versus regular makes a difference)
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1/2 cinnamon stick, or 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon is fine too
2 green cardamom pods, bruised
2 small cloves
1/2 star anise
1/2 cup whole milk

1.) Add the water to a small saucepan over medium high heat.
2.) Add the loose tea, sugar, cardamom pods, cloves, and star anise. Bring this up to a boil.
3.) Reduce heat to a simmer, let it boil on a low heat for 1-2 minutes.
This isn't a common step, but I do this because I like to get the tea very strong before adding in the milk. When it's done this way, the tea/milk ratio is perfect. Don't boil it very long if you like a milder flavor.
4.) Add the milk.
5.) Bring back up to a boil again.
6.) Reduce to a simmer and boil on low heat for 3-4 minutes.

Again, if you like it mild, don't boil it as long. The longer you boil it, the more water evaporates and concentrates the flavor of tea and milk. That's my preference.

7.) Use a small sieve to strain the chai in to two cups.
8.) Tell does it taste?



  1. Now I want Canela and I have no cinnamon sticks! (Canela is cinnamon in Spanish.) We take 2-3 whole cinnamon sticks and boil them in water until the water turns this nice reddish brown color and drain the sticks out. Add some sugar to the water and drink. It tastes cinnamony goodness and me and my family love it. Especially when it is cold out.

  2. Sweetened Cinnamon water? Count me in.
    Sounds like the perfect beverage for Christmas :o)