Chai Tea fix
August 27, 2007 8:28 AM   Subscribe

I need tips for making chai at home

My craving for a cup of chai tea in the morning has led me to try brewing it myself. My escapade this morning resulted in disaster. A watery brew with only a hint of spice.

I bought my chai from a local gourmet supermarket from their bulk tea section. It's a loose Masala Chai and I can see the fresh spices and herbs in the mix.

I used my usual 1 spoonful for myself and 1 for the pot. Boiling water, brewed for 5 minutes. A dash of milk and that was it. And then...watery waste. What works for you? What am I missing?
posted by vionnett to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
When I make it at home I do a 50/50 - half tea and half soy milk, which makes it really lush and rich. I also double up on the amount of tea I use...I really concentrate it because I'm going to dilute it with the soy milk. It's a deep, rich, fragrant dark brown when I pour it. It's so hit and miss, very frustrating, until you chance upon that perfect combination that works for you. But definitely try more than a dash of milk, unless you're opposed to that for some reason.
posted by iconomy at 8:36 AM on August 27, 2007

For more authentic chai, try heating the milk with the tea leaves, and letting that steep. And dash of milk is not going to cut it. More milk, less water. (Or only milk.)
posted by typewriter at 8:39 AM on August 27, 2007

The way I was taught to make chai:

1) Bring water and spices* to a boil in a saucepan on the stove. Reduce heat to a simmer and add milk, allowing it to simmer for another 5 minutes. (I can get decent chai from 1%, but you may prefer something richer).

Good proportion: 1/2 milk and water, or 2/3 water to 1/3 milk.

2) Add tea in a bag or sachet and allow to brew until it's the right colour. If you use loose tea, prepare to strain it when you pour. Allow one teabag equivalent per cup.

3) Let each person add the amount of sugar they want.

*Spices: Whole or ground cardomom, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and a wee bit of black pepper.
posted by maudlin at 8:47 AM on August 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

My wife, who grew up in a tea garden in India, heats milk with a small amount of water on the stove and then adds the loose tea.

She also adds raw slices of ginger with the loose tea, which apparently isn't "proper" according to her father who managed the tea garden, but she loves the taste.
posted by beowulf573 at 8:48 AM on August 27, 2007

I've already divulged my secret recipe; it's similar to typewriter's.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:48 AM on August 27, 2007

My recipe is a lot like MrMoonPie's.

I coarsely grind cloves, green cardamom and cinnamon sticks with a mortar and pestle before adding to the water.

Some other things you can try adding: a bit of good cocoa powder, fresh ground black pepper, or ginger powder (if you don't have fresh ginger). I actually made a mixture of these that I keep in a jar and add a teaspoon or two to the pot.

If you like it sweet, which is traditional, with the milk you can add some lovely Indian sugar if you can find it - I'm sorry I can't remember the name of it and Google isn't immediately fruitful, but it should be available at an Indo-Pak grocery if you have one nearby. A good substitute is one of the organic brown sugars at a natural grocery store.

Also, for my taste, the best black tea to use is loose Assam.
posted by pammo at 9:46 AM on August 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I also make sure to coarsely grind the spices. I let the tea and spices boil for a bit, turn the heat down, add the milk and let that steep for a while.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 10:02 AM on August 27, 2007

The way I've grown up making tea is to take loose tea (we use Lipton Red or Yellow label that you get at the Indian store) and boil it in a cup of water along with ginger/mint/cloves/whatever floats your boat. Wait for it to come to a boil once, then add half a cup of milk. Wait for it to come to a boil again, and you are done (add in sugar/splenda/whatever if you'd like).

Of course, real chai does not taste the same as the stuff you get in starbucks, which I find to be too sweet and way too many spices.
posted by echo0720 at 10:09 AM on August 27, 2007

Do you want to know how to make a good chai in general, or how to make a stronger chai when using a premixed chai mix?
posted by Bugbread at 10:23 AM on August 27, 2007

When I make chai, I tend not to use sugar. Try adding honey instead, after you've steeped it. I find it gives a bit more rich texture to it. (I use one tablespoon per cup of tea).
posted by Sugar Induced Coma at 10:38 AM on August 27, 2007

"the right way" :

-- buy ctc tea. it is the correct and proper stuff (and also happens to be quite cheap)

-- buy tea masala powder (not whole herbs, definitely not premixed with tea). there are many brands, most quite similar. I've also ground my own, but never surpassed the store-bought by enough to be worth the effort.

-- mix 1 mug water and 1 mug milk (or soy milk) in your pan. my own preference is 2:1 milk:water.

-- add tea and masala to taste (maybe 1T tea, 1t masala... you will figure it out eventually)

-- bring to a boil.

-- when it gets a nice color, add 1-2 fingertips' worth of shredded ginger.

-- strain through a tea strainer.

-- sugar to taste. honey is weird in my opinion. turbinado sugar is what we use, agave nectar or fine honey crystals (doesn't taste much like honey) also work. jaggery/ghur also works but I don't prefer it.
posted by dorian at 11:08 AM on August 27, 2007

also, my suspiciously similar lazy-ass recipe for green-tea-based chai:

-- mix 1 mug water, 1 mug milk (or soy milk)

-- add 2-3T loose green tea

-- add 1/4-1/2t ground white pepper (definitely to taste, be careful!)

-- boil, but be cautious: this is green tea!

-- add 1-2t shredded ginger

-- strain / add sugar / consume / &c. &c.
posted by dorian at 11:18 AM on August 27, 2007

The way my Punjabi friend taught me to make it is bring to a boil 2 quarts of water containing several tea bags with (estimating amounts here) a tablespoon of fennel seeds, about the same of cardamon, or you can skimp, and then a cinnamon stick. Simmer that for at 5-10 minutes, then add a lot of milk, at least a quart. Can be reheated. Add sugar to taste, to your cup, although some usually goes in the pot, too.
posted by Listener at 11:58 AM on August 27, 2007

This is how I make chai (I'm Indian): Boil 3/4 cup of water per cup of chai. Two spoons of sugar into the water (while boiling). A pinch of Chai Masala powder (I prefer the brand Everest, you can find it in Indian shops). When it starts boiling, add 1 1/2 spoons of tea powder, heat till it froths for around 5-10 seconds. Add milk till you get the nice chai colour :) Let it simmer for a few seconds. Strain.
posted by dhruva at 5:12 PM on August 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Sugar/honey brings out the flavour of the spices, so if you don't sweeten it enough, it might seem like it isn't spicy enough.

Chai with green tea powder (matcha) tastes quite interesting, by the way. I've also made it with pu-erh tea at least once, though I don't remember how it tasted.
posted by Stove at 5:25 PM on August 27, 2007

You can mix all the ingredients for masala chai ahead of time. Grind the spices and add them to the loose tea. Grate some ginger, dry it out, and add it too.

A rounded teaspoon of this mixture makes for a nice strong brew.
posted by FissionChips at 9:14 PM on August 27, 2007

My personal method:

1. Measure out the amount of tea you want to brew into a pot, and add a bit more than 1 part water.

2. Bring to a boil. Allow to boil for a minute or so, to release the flavours into the water.

3. Add desired sugar, then three parts milk. Bring to a boil a few times (stirring to keep the milk/sugar from burning on the bottom of the pot). This caramelises the milk, and gives that good rich colour and flavour.

4. Strain into a cup, and enjoy!

alternately, check these people out. good stuff.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 5:16 AM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

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